Thousands of Sudanese demonstrators rallied on Thursday against the killing of four students, as protest leaders and ruling generals were set to resume talks to thrash out remaining issues on transitioning to civilian rule.
Tragedy struck Al-Obeid on Monday when four high school students and two other protesters were shot dead at a rally against growing bread and fuel shortages in the city in central Sudan.
A top general from the ruling military council, Jamal Omar, accused members of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces of opening fire on what was a students’ rally in Al-Obeid.
Protest leaders called for a “million-strong” march across the country to condemn the killings, which they too blamed on the RSF.
Demonstrators on Thursday marched in several areas of Khartoum, heeding calls for the mass rally to “seek justice” for those killed in Al-Obeid and other protest-linked violence.
“Where is the investigation committee?” chanted protesters as they marched in the Burri and Bahri districts of the capital, sites of regular protests since they first erupted in December against the regime of now ousted president Omar al-Bashir.
Many in Khartoum carried Sudanese flags along with photographs of some of those people killed in the months-long protest campaign.
Protesters also rallied in Al-Obeid, the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan, in White Nile state and in the central city of Madani, witnesses said.
Omar, a member of Sudan’s ruling military council which took over after Bashir’s fall, accused elements of the RSF of opening fire at the Al-Obeid rally.
The rally was initially stopped with batons by a group of RSF forces guarding a nearby bank, the general told reporters during a visit to the city late on Wednesday, according to Cairo-based AL-Ghad television network.
“This action led to a reaction from some students who threw stones at the forces,” Omar said.
“This made some members of the force act in their individual capacity to open fire on protesters. We have identified those who fired live ammunition that led to the killing of the six,” he said.
A doctor at Al-Obeid hospital who received the casualties told AFP that four of those killed were students.
The Al-Obeid rally was against a growing shortage of bread and fuel, residents and witnesses told AFP this week.
It was the sudden tripling of bread prices in December that sparked the mushrooming protests which led to the toppling of Bashir by the army in April.
Doctors linked to the Alliance for Freedom and Change protest group said more than 250 people have been killed in protest-related violence since December.
The main demand of demonstrators has been to establish civilian rule, but talks with the generals have been suspended several times amid regular violence which peaked on June 3 when armed men broke up a weeks-long protest camp.
At least 127 people were killed that day, according to the protest-linked doctors.
Officials have given a much lower death toll.
The talks resumed last month following intense mediation by African Union and Ethiopian diplomats, and the two sides inked a power-sharing deal on July 17 that aims to form a joint civilian-military governing body.
That body would then establish a transitional civilian administration for a period of just over three years, after which elections would be held.
Several key issues remain but the talks were suspended after the killings in Al-Obeid.
Protest leaders and generals are to resume those negotiations later on Thursday, the official news agency SUNA reported, quoting military council spokesperson General Shamseddine Kabbashi.
Protest leader Madani Abbas Madani confirmed the talks.
The remaining issues concern the powers of the proposed joint civilian-military ruling body, the deployment of security forces and immunity for generals over protest-related violence.