Sudan: Death toll climbs to 100 after military crackdown

The African Union Peace and Security Council suspended Sudan from its activities Thursday after the death toll from a military crackdown on protesters climbed to more than 100.

Sudanese soldiers stand at one of the main roads leading to sit-in sites outside the Sudanese army headquarters in Khartoum.

The council, made up of 55 member nations on the African continent, called for civilian leadership in its statement as violence consumed Sudan.

“The #AU Peace and Security Council has with immediate effect suspended the participation of the Republic of #Sudan in all #AU activities until the effective establishment of a civilian-led Transitional Authority, as the only way to allow the Sudan to exit from the current crisis,” the council said on Twitter.

The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors said the death toll rose Wednesday from the military crackdown to 108 dead and more than 500 injured after two days.

The doctors group said 40 bodies were removed from the Nile River on Tuesday and more were removed Wednesday. The exact number is yet to be known and was not included in the day’s final death count.

Sixty-four of the dead were counted at hospitals in Khartoum and nearby territories, while four people, including three children, were killed in their homes.

“We always confirm that the number of martyrs is even greater and we are still in constant investigation of the missing, despite the stifling security, the difficulties of field communication, the ambassadors and the interruption of the Internet service,” the group said in a Facebook message.

The doctors group also said the number of dead may increase due to the difficulties medical staff are facing, including crowded hospitals, issues with blood banks and donor access and the availability of emergency resources.

Sixty people were originally reported killed in Monday’s crackdown against demonstrators during a sit-in protest outside the military headquarters. This week’s attack was preceded by weeks of protests demanding civilian rule following the military’s ousting of 30-year dictator Omar al-Bashir on April 11. Since then, military leaders founded the Transitional Military Council, which the opposition Forces of Freedom and Change rejected.

Negotiations began over when the military would hand over power and what the government would look like, but all agreements were terminated following Monday’s attack. Both sides ended previous agreements and ongoing negotiations, to the disappointment of much of the international community, including the United Nations, Troika and others.

On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department condemned the violence and called on the military to stop using force.

“We call for resumed contact with the Forces for Freedom and Change with the aim of a civilian-led transition that leads to timely elections and free expression of the will of the Sudanese people,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement directed at the TMC.

She said senior State Department officials have engaged in talks with regional counterparts while welcoming statements requesting the TMC to refrain from violence from the African Union, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

“The United States remains firmly committed to working with the people of Sudan along with our international partners, in pursuit of a peaceful solution in Sudan,” she said.

The State Department said in a separate statement that David Hale, its undersecretary of state and political affairs, had spoken with Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman Wednesday on the issue.

Meanwhile, the Sudanese Professionals Association, a main member of the Forces of Freedom and Change, called on foreign states and international agencies to reject the legitimacy of the TMC — which it has been referred to since the Monday attack as the “coup council” — as any government it would help to form would have “no shred of legitimacy.”

The SPA also called on the international community to form committees to investigate the alleged crimes being committed by the TMC. SPA has accused the TMC of mass murder and extrajudicial killings, pillaging of civilians and their property as well as rape, assault and indiscriminate violence, among others.

SPA has also called on the public to participate in nationwide civil disobedience and a strike as they are the only tools left for the “Sudanese people to hold the country from collapsing into total chaos and insecurity.”

“Let the coup council know that they were the initiators of total chaos that they claimed to warn against and protect the people from, and that extremism and terrorism are not taking hold openly, which will also be met by more extremism and terrorism,” it said. “Our country will be lost, and then regret and sorrow will not help.”

ByDarryl Coote & Clyde Hughes