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AFP
April 18, 2019

Bashir moved to prison as doctors rally

World

AFP
April 18, 2019

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military rulers have transferred ousted president Omar al-Bashir to prison, a family source said on Wednesday, as doctors marched through the capital to join a sit-in protest at the army complex.

Following the dramatic end to Bashir’s rule of three decades last week, he was moved late on Tuesday "to Kober prison in Khartoum", the source said without revealing his name for security reasons.

Witnesses near the prison in north Khartoum said there was a heavy deployment of soldiers and members of a paramilitary group outside. The 75-year-old’s whereabouts have been unknown since a military takeover on Thursday, when the country’s new rulers said he was being held "in a secure place".

The detention of Bashir has failed to pacify protesters, who launched anti-government demonstrations in December and have for days been camped out in front of Khartoum’s army headquarters.

Scores of doctors in their white robes marched from Khartoum’s main hospital towards the sit-in, carrying banners and chanting: "freedom, peace, justice." Journalists held a separate rally, calling for press freedom and holding signs demanding state media be run by "independent, professional journalists".

Sudan’s military rulers have made some concessions to protesters, including the sacking Tuesday of prosecutor general Omer Ahmed Mohamed, but demonstrators fear their uprising could be hijacked.

"We faced tear gas, many of us were jailed. We have been shot and many have died. All this because we said what we wanted to," protester Fadia Khalaf told AFP. Officials say at least 65 people have been killed in protest-related violence since December, with some of those killed immortalised in a Khartoum mural.

While there have been scenes of celebration -- with demonstrators singing and waving their national flag -- the protest site has grown more tense amid concerns the army will try to clear the sit-in with force. "Now we fear that our revolution could be stolen, which is why we are keeping our ground here. We are staying here until our demands are met," said Khalaf. Earlier this week witnesses said several army vehicles had surrounded the area and that troops were removing the barricades which demonstrators had put up as a security measure.

On Wednesday thousands of protesters remained at the site, cheering each other on despite looking fatigued. "I feel those people who are doing the sit-in are like my sons and daughters. I have suffered under this regime," said a woman serving tea at a makeshift checkpoint set up by protesters.

"I’m supporting these people and will come here whenever I can," she added. On taking power on Thursday the army said a military council would run the country for two years, sparking an immediate backlash from protest leaders who have issued a series of demands.

Just a day later former defence minister General Awad Ibn Ouf stepped down as council chief, sparking jubilation on the streets of Khartoum. His successor General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan oversaw weekend talks with political parties, which failed to make headway.

The military council declared a nationwide ceasefire, but the rebel Sudan Liberation Army (SLA-AW) fighting government forces in Darfur denounced what it called a "palace coup". On Wednesday, a rebel leader ordered a three-month suspension of hostilities in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states where his forces have been fighting government troops.

Abdulaziz al-Hilu, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), issued the command as a "goodwill gesture... to give a chance for an immediate transfer of power to civilians."

Sudan’s foreign minister has said Burhan is "committed to having a complete civilian government" and has called on other nations to back the council.

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