Hit in his own office: Sudan man’s anger at protest shooting

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A Sudanese personnel officer angrily recalls how he was in his Khartoum office when two stray bullets crashed into his left arm last month as security forces confronted protesters.

He says he had just taken a toilet break when the bullets slammed into the office compound, providing a rare account from among the hundreds of people whom human rights monitors say were wounded in the protests sparked by rising fuel prices.

Dozens were killed and hundreds of people, including opposition activists as well as protesters, detained. Journalists complained of worsening censorship, restricting the chance for victims' voices to be heard.

“I am in my office and I'm shot. I am very angry about that,” said the human resources officer, who is in his 40s and asked not to be identified.

Thousands took to the streets after President Omar al-Bashir on September 23 slashed fuel subsidies.

One small demonstration broke out near the man’s Khartoum office. He went outside to have a look but decided it would be best to stay inside until things calmed down.

He said he saw about 60 to 70 demonstrators who were burning tyres in the main street and had damaged traffic signals and street lights.

Police, militia and state security agents were armed with rifles and a truck-mounted gun, the man said.

They were firing, intermittently, “in all directions” but not directly at the protesters, he said.

“They wanted to scare them,” he said, adding that he witnessed the gunfire before returning to his office.

After 20 or 30 minutes he needed to go to the toilet, which is near the entry gate to his compound.

When he was finished and leaving the toilet, “suddenly I was hit” in the left side and arm.

“I fell down.”

His blood staining the white tile floor, he says he dragged himself to the main gate and called out that he was wounded.

Across the narrow dirt road, a storekeeper heard his plea and summoned uniformed militia who drove him to the nearest hospital, he says.

Two bullets went through his elbow and hand, he says, puncturing the bathroom door with holes about 2.5 centimeters (one inch) in diameter.

Another bullet left a larger hole two meters (six feet) high in the metal at the top of the gate.

The rounds appeared to have been fired from the main street into the alley which his office faces and where, the man said, the demonstrators had retreated.

Security forces are believed to have killed more than 200 protesters, many of whom were shot in the head or chest, Amnesty International said.

Authorities report 60 to 70 deaths, and say they had to intervene when crowds turned violent, attacking petrol stations and police.

Bashir said the protests were part of an effort to end his 24-year rule, using “agents, thieves and hijackers.”

Reformers within his ruling party sought an independent inquiry into the shooting of civilians but have instead found themselves under investigation by the party.

The victim said he had not joined any of the anti-government protests but he supports the right of demonstration “if it’s peaceful.”

Britain, France and the United States have all expressed concern at Sudan’s response to the protests.

An October 4 report from The African Center for Justice and Peace Studies, a human rights watchdog, said 170 demonstrators had been gunned down and more than 500 wounded.

Citing the deaths of a mechanic and an Ethiopian food vendor, it said “bystanders not involved in the demonstrations have been shot and killed by security forces” in areas where demonstrations occurred.

“Doctors have also been harassed by authorities when making statements regarding those killed and injured during the demonstrations,” the watchdog said.

The wounded man interviewed by AFP says he spent three days in hospital, is still recovering at home, and needs further surgery.

“This was an accident,” he said, but he has begun legal action over the incident and is angry that nobody from the government has come to see him.

His elbow is bandaged and a thick dressing encases his hand and wrist, leaving only the fingertips exposed as his arm rests in a sling.

Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid, a senior ruling party official, told AFP that he had not heard about accidental shootings but they “maybe” had occurred.

He urged the man to bring his case to authorities and, if the accident is confirmed, he should be eligible for compensation.

“It is the responsibility of the government to make people secure,” he said.