By Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM (Reuters) – Thousands of protesters marched towards Sudan’s defence ministry on Sunday demanding the ruling military hand over power to civilians, as security forces fired shots into the air.
Huge crowds also took to the streets in other parts of the capital and met barrages of tear gas in two areas less than 2km away from the presidential palace and in the upscale neighbourhood of Riad, east Khartoum, witnesses said.
A doctor’s group linked to the opposition said one protester in his 20s was shot dead in a rally in the northern city of Atbara as opposition groups reported demonstrations in cities across Sudan. Reuters could not verify those accounts.
Sudan’s military overthrew president Omar al-Bashir on April 11 after months of demonstrations against his rule.
Opposition groups kept up those demonstrations as they pressed the military to hand over to civilians – but talks broke down after security services raided a sit-in protest outside the defence ministry on June 3.
The Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) opposition coalition called for a million people to turn out on Sunday – the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought Bashir to power in 1989, and the African Union’s deadline for the military rulers to hand over to civilians or face further sanctions.
A senior member of Sudan’s military leadership said unknown snipers had shot at three paramilitary soldiers and at least six demonstrators on Sunday.
General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the deputy head of the Transitional Military Council, did not say whether anyone died and gave no more information during his short address on state TV. His report was not confirmed by other groups.
In another part of Khartoum, thousands blocked the main multi-lane highway that leads to the airport as they marched towards the house of a protester who was killed in January.
“We came out once again for the revolution and we will not retreat until they handover power to a civilian authority,” protester Hassan Ahmed told Reuters.
The Transitional Military Council had warned a day earlier that the coalition would bear the responsibility for any loss of life or damage resulting from the rallies.
Members of one of the main opposition groups – the Sudanese Professionals’ Association – said security services raided its headquarters on Saturday night as it was about to give a news conference.
The United Nations has said it has received reports that more than 100 protesters were killed and many more injured at the sit-in protest on June 3.
Military leaders have denied ordering a raid on the camp and said a crackdown on criminals nearby had spilled over to the sit-in.
The council has said some officers had been detained for presumed responsibility and it still intends to hand over power after elections.
Mediators led by the African Union and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have been trying to broker a return to direct talks.
(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Omar Fahmy, Nafisa Eltahir and Ali Abdelaty ; Writing by Amina Ismail; Editing by Andrew Heavens)