Thousands march demanding civilian rule in Sudan

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Huge crowds marched on Sudan’s defence ministry demanding the ruling military hand power to civilians and authorities said at least seven people were killed and scores injured in national protests.

In the largest demonstrations since a deadly raid by security forces on a protest camp in central Khartoum three weeks ago, thousands took to the streets in the Sudanese capital.

Near the presidential palace and in the upscale eastern neighbourhood Riyadh, they were met by security forces firing tear gas, witnesses said.

The deputy head of Sudan’s ruling military council, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, said unknown snipers were shooting at civilians and soldiers.

Seven were killed and 181 wounded, 27 of them by live fire, in protests nationwide, the state news agency reported, citing a Health Ministry under-secretary.

The official said 10 of the injured were regular force members, including three conscripts of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Hemedti, injured by gunfire. The remaining seven were injured by stones hurled by demonstrators.

A doctor’s group linked to the opposition said at least five protesters were killed and dozens injured during demonstrations in a number of cities. Reuters could not verify those accounts.

Sudan’s military overthrew president Omar al-Bashir in April after months of demonstrations against his rule.

Opposition groups kept up demonstrations as they pressed the military to hand power to civilians. Talks broke down after security services raided the sit-in protest camp outside the defence ministry on June 3.

The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) opposition coalition called for a million people to demonstrate on Sunday – the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought Bashir to power and the African Union’s deadline for Sudan’s military rulers to hand over to civilians or face further sanctions.

“WE WILL NOT RETREAT”

Elsewhere in Khartoum, thousands blocked the main multi-lane highway to the airport as they marched to the home of a protester killed in January.

Protesters waved the Sudanese flag and chanted “civilian, civilian” and “blood for blood,” as Sudan beefed up security across the capital.

“We came out once again for the revolution and we will not retreat until they hand power to a civilian authority,” protester Hassan Ahmed told Reuters.

The Transitional Military Council warned the opposition coalition would be responsible for any loss of life or damage  from Sunday’s protests.

Members of one of the main opposition groups – the Sudanese Professionals’ Association – said the security services raided its headquarters on Saturday as it was about to hold a news conference.

The United Nations received reports of more than 100 protesters killed and many injured during the June 3 raid on the protest camp.