By Nafisa Eltahir and Khalid Abdelaziz
KHARTOUM -Five people were killed during a crackdown by Sudanese security forces on nationwide protests against military rule on Dec. 30, a doctors' committee said on Friday.
Security forces had fired tear gas and stun grenades as protesters marched through Khartoum and the neighbouring cities of Omdurman and Bahri towards the presidential palace on Thursday, Reuters witnesses said.
Police said in a statement that four people were killed in Omdurman, and 297 demonstrators and 49 police were wounded nationwide in the protests, which involved tens of thousands of people.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, which is aligned with the protest movement, said a fifth person was killed after being hit in the chest by a tear gas canister fired by security forces during the protests on Thursday. It did not say where.
Al Hadath TV quoted an adviser to military leader Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan as saying the military would not allow anyone to pull the country into chaos and that continued protests were a "physical, psychological, and mental drain on the country" and "would not achieve a political solution".
Thursday's protests marked the 11th round of major demonstrations since an Oct. 25 coup that saw Abdallah Hamdok removed and then reinstated as prime minister. The demonstrators have demanded that the military play no role in government during a transition to free elections.
The Forces of Freedom and Change coalition said that security forces "used excessive repression" on Thursday and called on "regional and international communities and human rights organizations to condemn the coup".
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter that he was troubled by reports of lethal force and the United States "stands with the people of Sudan, as they demand freedom, peace, and justice".
The U.N. Special Representative to Sudan, Volker Perthes, said that he was "deeply disturbed" by the deaths.
Security forces confronted the protesters about 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) from the palace in the centre of the capital, a Reuters witness said.
The Khartoum State Ministry of Health said in a statement that security forces in Omdurman had prevented ambulances from carrying the wounded to nearby hospitals, adding that the "scale of repression exceeded expectations".
Sudan's Sovereign Council denounced in a statement on Friday the violence that accompanied Thursday's protests.
The council said that it ordered authorities to take all legal and military procedures necessary to avoid a recurrence of such events "so that nobody will go unpunished".
The council this week reinstated powers of arrests, detentions and seizures to the intelligence service. The intelligence service justified the decision by saying that the political situation could turn "catastrophic".
Internet and mobile services were apparently disrupted in Khartoum on Thursday.
Reuters witnesses were unable to make or receive domestic and international calls and a source at a telecoms company said an order to shut down internet services had come from the state-owned Sudan National Telecommunications Corporation.
Some people managed to post images on social media showing protests in several other cities, including Port Sudan, Zalenjei, and Kassala.
"I come for the martyred. I'm not going to be tired because some people gave their lives for this. Being tired is nothing compared to that," said a nurse in Bahri on Thursday, who said she has attended all 11 protests and gave her name as Jihad.