Three people were shot dead by security forces during Saturday demonstrations against a military coup in Sudan.
The Sudan Doctors Committee had initially reported two protesters were shot and killed, but confirmed that a third person died when security forces fired into crowds in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city.
Twelve people have been killed in demonstrations since the military seized power and deposed the prime minister on Monday.
Saturday’s demonstrations have drawn hundreds of thousands of people in the capital, Khartoum, as well as major cities throughout the country.
Protests began Monday, when General Abdel-Fattah Burhan declared a state of emergency and announced the dissolution of a landmark transitional government established in 2019. But Saturday’s “March of Millions” is expected to be the largest coordinated demonstration yet.
Images and video footage from Khartoum and other cities throughout the country show crowds carrying Sudanese flags and banners denouncing the military government. Chants and songs that were sung in 2019 when protesters demanded the ouster of dictator Omar al-Bashir have been revived in this week’s protests as well.
“I see people everywhere, from each direction, thousands of young people, women, old men, children, everyone,” Walaa Salah, an activist in Khartoum, told VOA’s English to Africa.
"Khartoum, the entire city, is outside protesting, calling for the fall of the military rule, calling for the fall of the coup, calling for the end of this partnership,” she said. “People are chanting against the military.”
Witnesses reported heavy military security in Khartoum, especially by the Rapid Special Forces, notoriously for fatally shooting dozens of protesters in 2019.
Earlier this week, security forces killed at least nine people by gunfire and wounded at least 170 others during the protests, according to the Sudan Doctors' Committee. Experts and demonstrators had expressed concern that Saturday’s protests could be violent.
Despite mobile internet and some WIFI being blocked throughout the country, organizers were able to coordinate demonstrations. Netblocks, which monitors internet cuts around the world, has reported that with the exception of one four-hour window, mobile internet has been cut throughout Sudan since Tuesday’s military takeover.
“We can't call or text. We have no idea what's going on, on the other side of the city,” Salah said.
Volker Perthes, the special representative of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said in a statement Friday that he “remains in constant contact with all sides to facilitate a political solution in line with the Constitutional Document. UNITAMS (the U.N. Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan) is actively coordinating with mediation efforts currently underway to facilitate an inclusive dialogue, which remains the only path toward a peaceful solution to the current crisis.”
The United States had urged the military leaders of Monday’s coup to refrain from "any and all violence" against peaceful protesters.
The appeal to Sudan's military leaders came from a senior U.S. State Department official who was briefing reporters on condition of anonymity.
Saturday will be “a real indication of what the military intentions are," the official had said.
The military takeover occurred after weeks of escalating tensions between military and civilian leaders over Sudan's transition to democracy. The coup threatens to derail the process, which has slowly progressed since the army ousted longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir, ending a popular uprising in 2019.
But even after the landmark power-sharing agreement in August of 2019, in which now-deposed Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok was named the country’s leader, protests have continued. Demonstrators, who often used the word “Medaniya,” or civilian, to call for a civilian government, opposed any military control in the transitional government.
Burhan said Tuesday the army's overthrow of the country's transitional government was necessary to avoid a civil war.
Nike Ching, Nabeel Biajoa and Peter Clottey contributed to this report. Some information came from Reuters.