SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Sudanese security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protesters in the capital of Khartoum as thousands took to the streets Thursday against a coup that has plunged the country into grinding deadlock, activists said. A senior police officer and a protester were killed, according to authorities and a medical group.
The demonstrations in Khartoum and elsewhere in Sudan are the latest in relentless protests since the military on Oct. 25 ousted the civilian-led government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
The military takeover has upended Sudan’s transition to democratic rule after three decades of repression and international isolation under autocratic President Omar al-Bashir. The African nation has been on a fragile path to democracy since a popular uprising forced the military to remove al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019.
Demonstrators, mostly young people, marched in different locations in Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, according to footage circulated online. Security was tight. There were also protests in the restive western region of Darfur.
The protesters demanded the removal of generals from power and the establishment of a fully civilian government to lead the transition.
Security forces used tear gas to disperse those marching in a main Khartoum street leading to the fortified presidential palace, according to the pro-democracy movement. Online videos show white smoke — apparently from tear gas — as protesters try to take cover and others hurl stones at the troops.
The police said a senior officer was killed while providing security to the protest close to the presidential palace. The statement did not say how Col. Ali Hamad was killed, but local media reported that he was stabbed to death as security forces were dispersing the protesters.
In Khartoum’s Bahri district, a protester was shot and killed and dozens were wounded when when security forces intervened with live ammunition to break up the march, according to the Sudan Doctors Committee.
More than 60 people have been killed, and hundreds of others injured in the near-daily protests since the coup.
The Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, later said a suspect was arrested in Thursday's stabbing attack, which also wounded a number of policemen. Other suspects are being pursued, the ministry added, without elaborating.
Idris Abdalla, a police spokesman, told the state-run television that a group of protesters stabbed the colonel. He is the first announced fatality among the security forces since the coup. Police had earlier reported injuries in the protests.
The United Nations has repeatedly urged authorities to cease their crackdown on protesters and hold accountable those responsible for killings in previous rounds of protests. The U.N. mission in Sudan began separate consultations earlier this week with Sudanese groups, to try to bridge the widening gap between the military and the pro-democracy movement. These consultations could possibly lead to direct talks between the two sides to find a way out of the crisis.
Hamdok, who was the civilian face of Sudan's transitional government in the past two years, resigned earlier this month, citing failure to reach a compromise between the generals and the pro-democracy movement. He had been reinstated in November in a deal with the military that angered the pro-democracy movement.
The movement insists that a fully civilian government lead the transition, a demand rejected by the generals who say power will be handed over only to an elected government. Elections are planned in July 2023, in line with a 2019 constitutional document governing the transition period.
The coup came a few weeks before the military should have handed over the leadership of the ruling sovereign council to civilians, according to the constitutional document.