Sudanese forces break up protest camp in Darfur, killing 1

CAIRO (AP) —

Sudanese security forces violently broke up a protest camp in the war-scarred Darfur region, killing at least protester and wounding a dozen others, including four children, activists said Monday.

Authorities said the violence in the town of Kutum, 120 kilometers (74 miles) northwest of the North Darfur provincial capital of al-Fashir, erupted late Sunday when a government convoy came under attack after a meeting between security officials and the protesters to discuss their demands.

Sudan's transitional government is struggling to end decades-long rebellions in different areas of the country, including Darfur. Longtime leader Omar al-Bashir, who was overthrown in a popular uprising in April 2019, faces international charges of genocide and crimes against humanity over a scorched-earth campaign against rebels in Darfur in the 2000s.

The protesters, mostly internally displaced people and refugees, began their sit-in outside the government buildings in Kutum about a week ago, calling for better security and an end to attacks by government-sanctioned armed groups, according to a local organization that helps run displacement camps in the Darfur region.

Yacoub Abdallah, coordinator of displacement and refugee camps in Darfur, said police attacked the protesters after they chanted against military and police officials who were visiting the sit-in area to meet with the protesters.

The protesters call for authorities to deploy more security forces to prevent attacks from armed groups on their farms, and a to impose a ban on motorcycles and weapons that are used in such attacks.

Police used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the protesters, an activist in Kutum said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Footage shared online showed people carrying the wounded, and black smoke billowing out of burning buildings.

Mohammed Ibrahim Abdel-Karim, acting governor of North Darfur, said in a statement that security officials, who met with the protesters Sunday, immediately met three of the protesters’ demands and vowed to work on achieving the rest.

The acting governor said the officials left the area on a plane, but that “lawbreakers” wielding stones and knives attacked government vehicles carrying reporters, guards and other officials, forcing them to shelter in a police station in Kutum.

Abdel-Karim said the men then attacked the police station, burning it to the ground, along with a dozen vehicles, including the convoy cars.

He called the attack “unjustified,” and said authorities were pursuing those behind the violence. He did not provide further details on who was behind the attack.

Sudan is on a fragile path to democracy after the military removed al-Bashir from power last year in the face of mass protests. A military-civilian government is now in power, and al-Bashir has been imprisoned in the capital, Khartoum, since his ouster.