KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces fired tear gas yesterday aiming to stop thousands of protesters demanding a transition to civilian rule, the latest in weeks of unrest since a military coup. Singing, beating drums, and holding up posters of some the dozens killed in demonstrations since the Oct 25 coup, protesters in the capital Khartoum shouted slogans against the army in defiance. "We will not stop until we get our country back," shouted one protester, 22-year old Samar Al-Tayeb.

Other protesters set fire to tyres to create burning barricades on the streets. Crowds were marching towards the presidential palace in Khartoum when security forces fired volleys of tear gas canisters forming thick and choking clouds, witnesses said. "Our marches will continue until we restore our revolution and our civilian government, even if martyrs fall among us," said Mojataba Hussein, a 23-year-old protester.

Deadly crackdown

When military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan staged the power grab over two months ago, it dismantled a precarious power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians that had been established in the wake of the April 2019 ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Al-Bashir. The protests on Thursday come days after prime minister Abdalla Hamdok - who had first been held under house arrest for weeks following the coup, before then being reinstated amid international pressure in a November 21 deal - resigned leaving the military fully in charge.

The protest movement had slammed the November deal as a "betrayal" for providing what they said was a cloak of legitimacy for Burhan's coup, and had kept up its rallies. When Hamdok stepped down on Sunday, he said Sudan was at a "dangerous crossroads threatening its very survival". The military takeover - one of several in Sudan's post-independence history - has seen security forces launch a bloody crackdown that has left at least 57 people dead and hundreds wounded, according to the independent Doctors' Committee.

Protests in several cities

Demonstrations on Thursday also took place in other cities, including in the eastern Red Sea city of Port Sudan, as well as in Atbara in the north and Wad Madani in the south, witnesses said. "The authority is that of the people," protesters chanted in Wad Madani, as they demanded soldiers "go back to the barracks". In Atbara, protesters called on Burhan to "hand over the country's keys and leave," witnesses said.

Crowds in the central state of North Kordofan chanted "No, no to military rule" while waving and draped in the national flag. On Tuesday, the United States, European Union, Britain and Norway warned the military against naming their own successor to Hamdok, saying they would "not support a prime minister or government appointed without the involvement of a broad range of civilian stakeholders". The Western statement added that "unilateral action to appoint a new prime minister and cabinet would undermine those institutions' credibility and risks plunging the nation into conflict".

Protesters have defied a hardline response from the security forces. Burhan last month issued a decree allowing security forces to arrest individuals "over crimes related to the state of emergency", effectively banning street protests. Under the decree, security forces are allowed to enter and search "any building or individual" and impose "surveillance of any property and facility".

Web monitoring group NetBlocks said the mobile internet was cut from mid-morning Thursday, and wider internet access and phone lines were also disrupted, a repeated tactic used to disrupt activists trying to organize demonstrations and broadcasting live footage of the rallies. - AFP