Sudan Military Admits Brutal Crackdown on Protesters
By Staff, Agencies
Sudan's ruling military council on Thursday for the first time admitted it ordered the dispersal of Khartoum sit-in, which left scores dead, as US and African diplomats stepped up efforts for a solution to the country's political crisis.
Protesters had staged the weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters in Khartoum forcing long-time leader Omar al-Bashir from power in April.
But the protesters have continued their agitation demanding the military council, which took over from al-Bashir, hand power to a civilian-led transitional body.
On June 3, days after talks between protest leaders and the military collapsed, armed men in military fatigues broke up the camp in an operation that doctors said left 120 people dead. Doctors said that at least 40 bodies were recovered from the Nile river.
The health ministry has put the death toll for that day at 61 nationwide.
The military council had "decided to disperse the sit-in", said spokesman Shamseddine Kabbashi.
"We ordered the commanders to come up with a plan to disperse this sit-in. They made a plan and implemented it ... but we regret that some mistakes happened."
Later at the end of the conference Kabbashi said that the plan was to clear a nearby area called Colombia, usually inhabited by drug peddlers, but then "we regret what happened".
He said the findings of an investigation into the incident would be released on Saturday.
Kabbashi also claimed "more than one coup attempt had been planned" against the military council but were prevented in recent days, with "two groups of officers" taken into custody.
Kabbashi's comments came after protesters, who had staged a nationwide civil disobedience movement to demand civilian rule, agreed on Tuesday to end the campaign and resume talks with the generals.
Traffic jams have returned to downtown Khartoum and some shops in the capital's famous gold market began to reopen on Thursday as more residents and office employees ventured out.
Following Ethiopian mediation efforts, Washington's newly appointed special envoy to Sudan, Donald Booth, and the assistant secretary of state for Africa, Tibor Nagy, met military council chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Thursday.
Burhan told the envoys that Sudan and its people had a positive view of US efforts to reach a political settlement, according to a statement released by the military council.
Washington said Booth had been named to help craft a "peaceful solution" to the crisis that has rocked the northeast African country.
The Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella protest movement said its leaders had briefed the two US officials on Wednesday on the need for a transparent investigation into the June 3 killings.
They also called for the withdrawal of "militias" from the streets in Khartoum and other towns, the lifting of an internet blockade and the establishment of a civilian administration, it said in a statement.