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People chant slogans during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan, on January 6, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Khartoum: Security forces shot dead three protesters and fired tear gas in Sudan on Thursday as crowds thronged the capital Khartoum and other cities in more anti-military rallies, medics and Reuters witnesses said.

At least 60 people have died and many more have been wounded in crackdowns on demonstrations since a disollution of the government in October that interrupted efforts to bring about democratic change, according to a group of medics aligned with the protest movement.

The people killed on Thursday were all protesters and died from shots fired by security personnel during rallies in the cities of Omdurman and Bahri, across the River Nile from Khartoum, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said.

Protesters attempted once again to reach the presidential palace in the capital to keep up pressure on the military, whose action halted a power-sharing arrangement negotiated after the 2019 overthrow of Omar Al Bashir.

The military has justified its measures as a “correction” needed to stabilise the transition. They have said peaceful protests are permitted and those responsible for causing casualties will be held to account.

In Omdurman, where several protesters have been killed in the past week, a protester said that security forces fired live rounds and tear gas, and ran over several protesters with armored vehicles.

“There was incredible violence today, the situation in Omdurman has become very difficult. Our friends have died, this situation can’t please God,” he said, asking not to be named as some protesters have been arrested in recent days.

Khartoum State’s health ministry said security forces raided Arbaeen Hospital in Omdurman, attacking medical staff and injuring protesters, and said the forces besieged Khartoum Teaching Hospital and fired tear gas inside it.

In Bahri, a witness saw forces use heavy tear gas and stun grenades, with some canisters landing on houses and a school as protesters were prevented from reaching the bridge to Khartoum.

In a statement, Sudanese police said, “The demonstrations witnessed a deviation from peacefulness and cases of aggression and violence by some demonstrators towards the forces present,” citing a number of injuries among police and armed forces.

The statement also said that three people had been arrested for the killing of two citizens in Omdurman and that 60 suspects were arrested overall.

As in previous demonstrations, mobile phone and internet services were largely cut from late morning, Reuters journalists and Netblocks, an internet blockage observatory, said.

Most bridges connecting Khartoum with Bahri and Omdurman were closed. Images of protests in other cities including Gadarif, Kosti and Madani were posted on social media.

KEPT BACK FROM THE PALACE

The Forces of Freedom and Change coalition, which had been sharing power with the military, called on the UN Security Council to carry out an investigation on what it described as intentional killings and raids of hospitals.

In Khartoum, protesters tried to reach the presidential palace but security forces advanced toward them, firing frequent volleys of tear gas, according to a Reuters witness.

Some protesters wore gas masks, while many wore medical masks and other face coverings and several brought hard hats and gloves in order to throw back tear gas canisters.

Protesters barricaded roads with rocks, bricks, and branches as they marched towards downtown Khartoum and security forces approached from more than one side.

Motorcycles and rickshaws could be seen taking away protesters who were injured or had fainted.

The protests, the first of several rounds of demonstrations planned for this month, come four days after Abdullah Hamdok resigned as prime minister.

Hamdok became prime minister in 2019 and oversaw major economic reforms before being deposed in the coup and returning in a failed bid to salvage the power-sharing arrangement.

“We came out today to get those people out. We don’t want them running our country,” said Mazin, a protester living in Khartoum, referring to the military.

Hamdok’s return and resignation did not matter, he said, adding, “We are going to continue regardless.”