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Sudan ruling military calls for elections within nine months

Sudanese protesters use burning tires to erect a barricade on a street, demanding that the country's Transitional Military Council hand over power to civilians, in Khartoum

Sudanese protesters use burning tires to erect a barricade on a street, demanding that the country's Transitional Military Council hand over power to civilians, in Khartoum

General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the Transitional Military Council, announced Tuesday in a televised address that it will hold elections within the next nine months. General Burhan said the elections would organize under regional and international supervision.

Monday's raid on the protest site outside the Defense ministry capped a breakdown of relations between the military and the Alliance for Freedom and Change, a coalition of protesters and opposition parties. The two sides had been negotiating over the makeup of a transitional government following the military's ouster of President Omar al-Bashir in April, after mass protests against his autocratic rule.

The parties had agreed to form an interim government that would rule Sudan for three years before handing over power to a permanent civilian government. But the talks broke down last month over differences on the leadership of the transitional government.

Details of the raid

On Monday, with batons in hand, Sudanese forces dressed in police and military uniforms surrounded protesters near the military headquarters and began forcing the demonstrators to leave.

Explosions and heavy machine gunfire were heard, and video on several media outlets shows Sudanese forces beating protesters lying face down on the ground. Protesters say rapid response forces and paramilitary units surrounded two Khartoum hospitals.

Witnesses say that by mid-afternoon on Monday, the area had been cleared. The protesters had been staging the sit-in since April at the start of the negotiations. The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, which is close to Sudan’s protest movement, said Tuesday the death toll has risen to 35 with many more injured.

Transitional Military Council spokesman Shams El din Al Kabashi said the forces only targeted what he called “dangerous groups” that infiltrated the protesters in the sit-in area.

In a statement released by his spokesman in New York, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned Monday's attack in Khartoum.

"The secretary-general reminds (Sudan’s) Transitional Military Council of its responsibility for the safety and security of the citizens of Sudan," the spokesman said. "He urges all parties to act with utmost restraint."

Guterres also called for unimpeded access for first responders at the sit-in site and in hospitals where the wounded are treated, and called on Sudanese authorities to conduct an independent investigation and hold people accountable for the deaths.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also condemned the attack and urged the security forces to stop immediately.

"Those exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression must be protected, not targeted or detained," Bachelet said in a statement. "This is a fundamental tenet of international human rights law."

The U.S. embassy in Khartoum tweeted that the attacks on protesters "must stop."

The British embassy condemned the attack and called it an "outrageous step that will only lead to more polarization and violence."

The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces — a coalition of political parties leading the protest — issued a statement calling on all demonstrators to continue with"the revolution." Protesters later blocked roads leading into and out of Khartoum.

Protest organizers have suspended further talks with the Transitional Military Council and called for civil disobedience across the country until the military hands over power to civilians.

The organizers also say in the statement that security forces who killed protesters must be brought to justice

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd