Heavy gunfire has been heard in Sudan‘s capital, Khartoum, as security forces forcefully moved in to clear a protest camp that has been the central point in the demonstrators’ months-long struggle for civilian rule.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, a medical group linked to protesters, said at least five people were killed and several wounded in the Monday morning raid, which was still in progress. The committee also said security forces used live ammunition inside East Nile Hospital in Khartoum where some of the wounded were been treated.
In a post on Twitter, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) said the country’s ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) had assigned a large number of troops to disperse the protest camp.
The sound of heavy gunfire was heard in footage broadcast from the scene, while plumes of smoke rose into the sky.
Mohammed Alamin, a journalist in Khartoum, told Al Jazeera troops from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) first used tear gas then sound grenade to disperse protesters. Soldiers then fired live rounds at the remaining protesters.
“They are now in control of most of the sit-in area and have burnt down the make-shift clinics. Most of the protesters have been dispersed. Soldiers are blocking all entrances to the area with military vehicles to stop protesters from returning,” Alamin said.
Madani Abass Madani, one of the protest leaders, has been injured as troops dispersed the protesters, Alamin added.
High tension at the sit-in at army hq in Khartoum. #Sudan’s Central Doctors’ Committee is calling for doctors to mobilize and prepare for emergencies amidst concerns that an attempt will be made to break the sit-in nearly 2 months after it started. https://t.co/NU2GFsIZ45
— Hiba Morgan (@hiba_morgan) June 3, 2019
Speaking to Al Jazeera, witnesses spoke of soldiers being heavily armed and of using live ammunition against protesters who were peaceful and did nothing to provoke the troops.
“We are being attacked by the Rapid Support Forces and the police,” Mamadou Abozeid, a protester in Khartoum, told Al Jazeera over the phone.
Mohammed Elmunir, another protester in the Sudanese capital, said security forces blocked the exits of the sit-in site before opening fire on protesters.
“They were shooting at every one randomly and people were running for their lives. They blocked all roads and most tents at the sit-in have been set on fire,” Elmunir told Al Jazeera.
“People are very angry right now. They don’t know what could happen next. Protesters have dispersed to other parts of the city. They are now on the streets protesting. Most people have blocked the roads in their neighbourhoods,” he added.
In a statement, the SPA said the TMC would be held accountable for any bloodshed and called for a campaign of civil disobedience.
“It is imperative to go out to the streets to protect the revolution and the remaining dignity. Our weapons are peace courage,” it said in a statement.
“We call on the revolutionaries in all neighbourhoods, villages, towns and cities of Sudan to go out to the streets and start marching, closing all streets and bridges and ports. We call for a comprehensive civil disobedience to bring down the deadly military junta and complete our revolution.”
Nawal Osman, a protester in Khartoum, said she and her husband were getting ready to leave their house and join the protesters.
“I am going there now, I live nearby the protest area,” she told Al Jazeera over the phone. “This revolution is staying,” she added. “We are all ready to be there, to protect the country and to get rid of those criminals.”
Sudanese human rights activist Azaz Elshami said it was not surprising the military has resorted to using deadly force to deal with protesters.
“What is happening is the mask is finally falling. The military is not different from the government before it. They are not what they said they are. They don’t want change and they want power for themselves. Now, everyone knows what they are up against. This is a new phase. It might take much longer, but I don’t think Sudanese people will back down,” Elshami told Al Jazeera.
The sit-in has become the focal point of Sudan’s protest movement, which saw longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir overthrown in April and has since been calling for the generals who replaced him to hand over power to a civilian-led administration.
The operation came days after Sudan’s military rulers called the sit-in outside the defence ministry “a danger” to the country’s national security and warned that action would be taken against what they called “unruly elements”.
The military has also ordered the office of the Al Jazeera Media Network in Khartoum to be shut down, without giving any reason. It withdrew the work permits for the correspondents and staff of the Qatar-based news organisation.
“People have started putting up barricades in many areas and it seems that the situation is aggravating,” Hamid Eldood, a professor at Al-Neelain University, told Al Jazeera from Khartoum.
He added that the latest developments indicated a “tone change” by the members of the TMC following the visit by its head, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo – also known as Hemeti – “to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates”.
“It is really a barbaric act and it seems Sudan is heading towards civil war and a [bleak] future,” Eldood said.
Additional reporting by Mohammed Alamin in Khartoum.