Sudan talks offer rejected

27

Sudan’s military rulers offered to resume talks with opposition groups two days after security forces mounted a deadly raid on a protest camp, but the opposition rejected the invitation.

Medics linked to the opposition said the death toll from Monday’s operation and subsequent unrest rose to 108 and was expected to increase. State news agency SUNA put the number lower at 46, citing a health ministry official.

The raid, which followed weeks of wrangling between the ruling military council and opposition groups over who should lead Sudan’s transition to democracy, marked the worst outbreak of violence since the army ousted President Omar al-Bashir in April after months of protests against his 30-year rule.

The Transitional Military Council cancelled all agreements reached with the opposition immediately after the raid, but backpedalled after mounting international criticism of the violence.

“We in the military council extend our hand for negotiations without shackles except the interests of the homeland,” its head, Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, said on state TV.

A Sudanese alliance of protesters and opposition groups rejected the offer, saying the military could not be trusted.

“The council invited us to dialogue and at the same time it is imposing fear on citizens in the streets,” Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF), told Reuters.

Madani said Burhan’s invitation came before the arrest of an opposition alliance member, Yasir Arman, deputy head of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) rebel group.

GUNFIRE, STREET BLOCKADES

Opposition medics said 40 bodies pulled from the Nile on Tuesday were among the 108 killed. The bodies were taken to an unknown destination by pickup trucks belonging to the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, the medics said. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the report.

A military council spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment, but the council said on Twitter some Rapid Support Forces members were attacked and  people had put on uniforms to impersonate them in an attempt to harm their reputation.

The mood in Khartoum was tense on Wednesday with demonstrators blocking streets in several districts.

Most shops were shuttered on what would have been a bustling Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday. Minor protests erupted outside mosques after Eid prayers, but there were no reports of significant clashes.

The deputy head of the military council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, said in a televised speech it launched “an urgent and transparent investigation” into the recent violence.

“Any person who crossed boundaries has to be punished,” he added.

The military denied trying to clear the sit-in protest outside the defence ministry. Its spokesman said forces moved in to deal with disruptive groups nearby and violence spread from there.

Saudi Arabia, which has close ties to Sudan’s military council, said it was watching developments with concern and called for more dialogue.

US national security adviser John Bolton said in a Twitter post Monday’s violence by Sudan’s security forces was “abhorrent” and demanded the military council facilitate moves toward a civilian-led government.

The main protest organiser, the Sudanese Professionals Association, called for an international committee to investigate Monday’s deaths in what it branded a “massacre”.

Several airlines cancelled flights to Khartoum, including Bahrain’s Gulf Air, flydubai and EgyptAir.