Sudanese security forces opened fire, torched tents as they cleared away the months-old sit-in that was demanding the military yield power to a civilian transitional body.

A disabled man walks past a barricade erected by Sudanese protesters along a street, demanding that the country's Transitional Military Council hand over power to civilians, in Khartoum, Sudan on June 3, 2019.
A disabled man walks past a barricade erected by Sudanese protesters along a street, demanding that the country's Transitional Military Council hand over power to civilians, in Khartoum, Sudan on June 3, 2019. (Reuters)

Sudan's ruling military moved to crush the protest movement opposing its grip on power as security forces overran the main sit-in site in the capital Monday, unleashing furious volleys of gunfire, burning down tents, arresting hundreds and killing at least 35 people, witnesses and protest leaders said.

The Sudan Doctors' Committee said the death toll had risen to at least 35 early Tuesday with the killing of five people in the city's Bahri district.

The committee said the number was likely to rise as many casualties are still unaccounted for and the dispersal of the sit-in now risks escalating violence even further. 

Scattered by the bloody assault, protesters vowed to keep up their campaign, suspending talks and calling for a general strike and civil disobedience.

They urged nighttime marches across the country.

The attack came on the day before the Eid holiday that ends Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast during daylight hours. 

Military scraps opposition agreement 
Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC) announced they will cancel all previous agreements with the main opposition coalition, the council head said in a televised statement, following the deadly violence in the capital.

Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al Burhan said that the coalition was equally responsible for the delay in coming to an agreement.

Burhan said that elections would be held within nine months.

TRT World 's Reagan Des Vignes reports.

Earlier, the committee said forces were also opening fire inside the city's East Nile Hospital and "chasing peaceful protesters. " 

It said another hospital near the site of the sit-in was surrounded and volunteers were prevented from reaching it.

The United States and Britain called for an end to the crackdown on demonstrators, who want the generals behind the overthrow of veteran president Omar al Bashir to hand over to civilian rule.

The European Union also called on Sudan's military leaders to allow people to protest peacefully and urged a speedy transfer of power to civilians.

TRT World spoke to Mukerrem Miftah, Horn of Africa expert at Social Sciences University of Ankara, for his analysis.

Sudanese forces deny violence

The military council has denied multiple reports of their forces violently dispersing the sit-in in front of army headquarters, as protesters took to the streets in towns around the country.

The military council "did not disperse the sit-in by force," its spokesman said.

"The tents are there, and the youth are moving freely," Shamseddine Kabbashi told Sky News Arabia.

But protest leaders said the site had been cleared of demonstrators.

"The Rapid Support Forces and the army and police and militia battalions dispersed the peaceful sit-in," the Alliance for Freedom and Change, the protesters' umbrella group, said in a statement.

Outside the army headquarters "there is no one, but the pure bodies of our martyrs that it has not been possible to evacuate from the site".

'Bloody massacre'

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded nationwide protests that started in December, said it amounted to a "bloody massacre" and hundreds of people had been wounded.

It called on Sudanese to take part in "total civil disobedience" to topple the military council.

Rallies against Bashir's authoritarian, three-decade rule led to his ouster in April, but protesters had remained outside the army headquarters calling on the generals to cede power to a transitional authority.

Near the demonstration site, a witness living in the Burri neighbourhood said he could "hear the sound of gunfire and I see a plume of smoke rising from the area of the sit-in."

Another resident of the area, in east Khartoum, said he had seen forces in "police uniform" trying to expel the demonstrators.

Protests erupted in towns across Sudan in response to the violence in Khartoum.

"Now the streets are closed (with barricades made) from stone and the chant is going round 'Just fall, that's all, the whole Council'," a witness in Port Sudan on the Red Sea said.

A witness in Atbara, in northern Sudan, said the city's roads were closed and "even the streets that link it to other towns."

'Heavy gunfire'

Britain's ambassador to Khartoum, Irfan Siddiq, said he had heard "heavy gunfire" from his residence.

The country's foreign minister condemned "the attack on protesters by Sudanese security forces" and called it "an outrageous step".

"The Military Council bears full responsibility for this action and the international community will hold it to account," Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote on Twitter.

The US embassy in Khartoum said, "security forces' attacks against protesters and other civilians is wrong and must stop."

"Responsibility falls on the TMC. The TMC cannot responsibly lead the people of Sudan," it added referring to the transitional military council.

The Alliance for Freedom and Change announced "the end of all political contact and negotiations with the putschist Council" following the deaths, even as neighbouring Egypt appealed for the two sides to talk.

Negotiations between protest leaders and the ruling military council have broken down, as the two sides have failed to agree on whether a planned transitional body would be headed by a civilian or a military figure.

The rally leaders urged "peaceful marches and rallies" nationwide and for barricades to be put up including in the capital.

Protesters had already set about building a brick barricade and had set tyres and tree trunks alight on one of the main streets in the capital.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies