CAIRO (AP) — At least four Sudanese demonstrators were shot dead by live ammunition on Thursday amid mass marches in the capital, Khartoum, and elsewhere across the country denouncing state violence against pro-democracy protesters, activists said.
The killings took place in Khartoum’s sister city, Omdurman, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, part of the protest coalition which has spearheaded the protests that drove longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir from power in April.
The marches were held to demand justice for the killing of at least six people — including four students — by security forces during student protests in a central province Monday.
The country’s ruling military council was set to resume talks with protest leaders later Thursday to finalize a power-sharing agreement, the protest coalition said. The two sides had been set to hold talks Tuesday on the agreement, but those were postponed after the deaths at the student rally.
The protest leaders had agreed with the military on the outline of a power-sharing deal last month but remain divided on a number of key issues, including whether military commanders should be immune from prosecution for violence against protesters.
The military council said Thursday that it had arrested seven members of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces who had fired live ammunition during Monday’s student protest. The military statement carried by the state-run SUNA news agency reported that the troops had responded in “an isolated manner” by shooting at the students.
A statement from protest leaders called the marches a “safety valve” and “our way to bring culprits to justice, avenge martyrs and to ensure the transfer of power to an interim civilian government.” The group stressed the peaceful nature of the rallies, but warned that armed infiltrators might slip in among the crowd to instigate violence.
Videos of Thursday’s marches posted on social media by Sudanese activists showed protesters raising pictures of slain protesters, waving Sudanese flags and holding banners reading: “Our government is civilian and shall be protected by our revolution.”
“We cannot reach any agreement while ignoring the blood of martyrs,” said Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the protest coalition that’s negotiating with the military. Speaking to reporters ahead of Thursday’s demonstrations, he said both marches and negotiations remain part of the protesters’ toolkit to achieve their goals.