KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Huge crowds marched on Sudan’s defense ministry on Sunday demanding the ruling military hand over power to civilians, and the authorities said at least seven people were killed and scores injured in protests nationwide.
In the biggest demonstrations since a deadly raid by security forces on a protest camp in central Khartoum three weeks ago, tens of thousands of residents took to the streets in several parts of the Sudanese capital.
In two areas near the presidential palace and in the upscale eastern neighborhood of Riyadh, they were met by security forces firing barrages of 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 people were killed and 181 wounded, 27 of them by live fire, in protests nationwide, the state news agency reported, citing a Health Ministry undersecretary.
The official said 10 of those injured were members of regular forces, including three conscripts of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Hemedti, who were injured by gunfire. The remaining seven were injured by stones hurled by demonstrators, he added.
A doctor’s group linked to the opposition said at least five protesters were killed and dozens injured during demonstrations in several 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 those demonstrations as they pressed the military to hand over power to civilians. But talks broke down after members of the security services raided the sit-in protest camp outside the defense 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.
In another part of Khartoum, thousands blocked the main multi-lane highway that leads to the airport as they marched toward the home of a protester who was 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 handover power to a civilian authority,” protester Hassan Ahmed told Reuters.
The Transitional Military Council had warned a day earlier that the opposition coalition would bear the responsibility for any loss of life or damage resulting 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 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 during the June 3 raid on the protest camp.
Military leaders have denied ordering a raid on the camp and said a crackdown on criminals nearby had spilled over.
The council has said some officers had been detained for presumed responsibility, and that 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 and Daniel Wallis