At least nine people were wounded when Sudanese forces used live ammunition to clear demonstrators in central Khartoum, a protest group said and talks on forming a body to lead Sudan to democracy are suspended for 72 hours.
The violence cast a shadow on talks appearing on course to reach a deal on forming a joint military-civilian body to run the country for a three-year transition period until presidential elections. Both sides traded accusations on who was responsible for the violence.
“We hold the military council responsible for attacking civilians,” said Amjad Farid, a spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA), which spearheaded months of protests that led to the military’s removal of President Omar al-Bashir last month.
“They are using the same methods as the previous regime in dealing with rebels,” he told Reuters.
The head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council (TMC), Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, accused demonstrators of breaking an understanding on de-escalation while talks were underway and said protesters were disrupting life in the capital by blocking roads outside a protest zone agreed on with the military.
In a televised speech, Burhan read out a long list of what he described as violations of understandings reached with protest leaders and said the TMC decided to suspend talks for 72 hours “until a suitable atmosphere is created to complete an agreement.”
He said the TMC, which took over after ousting and jailing Bashir last month, decided to remove all barricades put up by demonstrators beyond where protesters are camping outside the Defence Ministry.
Early on Wednesday the military named a committee to investigate targeting protesters after at least four people were killed in Khartoum on Monday.
Weeks of street protests that precipitated the end of Bashir’s 30-year rule on April 11 continue as the opposition demands the military hand power to civilians.
A Reuters witness and Sudanese witnesses said troops in military vehicles carrying the logo of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fired extensively as they tried to clear demonstrators on al-Mek Nimir Avenue in central Khartoum, near the Foreign Ministry.
The RSF denied opening fire at demonstrators, state TV reported.
“People were walking to the barricades and security forces were firing shots at them,” a 20-year-old demonstrator, who asked not to be named, said showing bullet casings and referring to road blocks set up by protesters.
The violence took place hours before the TMC was due to meet representatives of the umbrella opposition group Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) to hammer out a final deal for the transition period.
A senior DFCF leader said the TMC informed them of suspension of the talks. “No date has been set for the talks to resume,” the source told Reuters.
Both sides, which have been talking for several weeks, announced agreement on the composition of a legislative council and duration of the transition.
Some demonstrators were cautious over prospects of an agreement to satisfy their demands for a handover of power to civilians and for security forces to be held to account for the deaths of demonstrators.
“We are still sticking to our plan,” said Altaj Blah, a protester in central Khartoum. “The barriers are there and they are not moving until our demands are met.”
In the agreement announced on Wednesday the two sides said the transition would last three years – a compromise between the military council’s proposal of two years and the opposition DFCF’s preference for four.
The TMC said the DFCF would have two-thirds of the seats on a transitional legislative council while parties outside the alliance would take the remainder. Elections would be held at the end of the transition.
On Monday after security forces tried to clear some protest sites, at least four people, including three protesters and a military police officer, were killed. These are the first deaths linked to protests for several weeks.
DFCF members blame security and paramilitary forces, while voicing suspicions groups linked to Bashir might be fomenting unrest to undermine a political accord.