Sudan’s ruling military council cancelled all agreements with the main opposition coalition and called for elections within nine months, following the worst violence since President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April.
The decision by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) is likely to fuel anger among protest leaders who demand preparations for elections during a longer transitional period led by a civilian administration.
The TMC is under domestic and international pressure to hand power to civilians.
At least 35 people were killed when security forces stormed a protest camp outside the Defence Ministry in central Khartoum on Monday amid heavy gunfire, according to a group of doctors linked to the opposition. The group earlier said at least 116 people were wounded.
Main protest organisers the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) accused the TMC of perpetrating “a massacre” as it broke up the camp, a charge denied by the council.
TMC spokesman Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi said security forces were pursuing “unruly elements” who fled to the protest site and caused chaos.
The camp is the focal point of pressure on the country’s military rulers to hand power to civilians.
Sudan has been rocked by unrest since December, when anger over rising bread prices and cash shortages broke into sustained protests culminating in the armed forces ousting Bashir.
Talks between a coalition of protesters and opposition parties ground to a halt amid differences over who will lead a transition to democracy both sides agree will last three years.
In a televised address in the early hours of Tuesday, TMC leader Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said the opposition coalition was equally responsible for the delay in reaching a final agreement.
The TMC decided to cancel all agreements with protest groups and call for elections within nine months, which will be organised under regional and international supervision.
“Gaining legitimacy and a mandate comes through the ballot box,” Burhan said.
He announced a government would immediately be formed to run the country until elections are held.
Protest organisers have not officially responded to Burhan’s decision. They earlier condemned the violence and vowed to escalate protests to force military rulers to hand power to civilians.
Burhan regretted the violence accompanying what he described as “an operation to clean Nile Street” and said it will be investigated.
The operation drew condemnation from Europe, the United States and the African Union.
Sudan has been on a US list of states that sponsor terrorism since 1993 that denies the country access to financial markets and strangles its economy.
Washington lifted a 20-year trade embargo against Sudan in 2017 and was in discussions to remove it from the sponsor of terrorism list when the military stepped in on April 11 to depose Bashir, who ruled Sudan for 30 years.