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Several protesters killed in Sudan amid mass rallies against military rule

Protesters march in a rally against military rule in Khartoum, Sudan on June 30, 2022. © Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah, Reuters

Seven Sudanese demonstrators were killed Thursday as security forces sought to quash mass rallies of protesters demanding an end to military rule, pro-democracy medics reported.

In one of the most violent days this year amid an ongoing crackdown on the anti-coup movement, AFP correspondents reported security forces firing tear gas and stun grenades to disperse tens of thousands of protesters.

"Even if we die, the military will not rule us," protesters chanted, urging the reversal of an October military coup by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, that prompted foreign governments to slash aid, deepening a chronic economic crisis.

Two protesters were shot dead by "bullets to the chest", and another was killed by "a bullet to the head", the medics said, reporting the deaths on Thursday.

"Down with Burhan's rule," crowds chanted, with protests and violence flaring in both the capital Khartoum and its suburbs, including the twin city of Omdurman.

Medics also reported "several attempts to storm hospitals in Khartoum", with security forces firing tear gas into one hospital, where some of those injured during the protests had been taken.

An AFP correspondent said internet and phone lines had been disrupted since the early hours of Thursday, a measure the Sudanese authorities often impose to prevent mass gatherings.

Security was tight in Khartoum despite the recent lifting of a state of emergency imposed after the coup.

Troops and police blocked roads leading to both army headquarters and the presidential palace, witnesses said. Shops around the capital were largely shuttered.

Activists have been calling for "million-strong" rallies.

'Violence needs to end'

UN special representative Volker Perthes said Thursday that "violence needs to end", while the US embassy in Khartoum urged restraint and "the protection of civilians so that no more lives are lost".

Sudan's foreign ministry has repeatedly criticised the UN envoy's comments, saying they were built on "assumptions" and "contradict his role as facilitator" in troubled talks on ending Sudan's political crisis.

The latest protests come on the anniversary of a previous coup in 1989 that toppled the country's last elected civilian government and ushered in three decades of iron-fisted rule by Islamist-backed general Omar al-Bashir.

They also come on the anniversary of 2019 protests demanding that the generals, who had ousted Bashir in a palace coup earlier that year, cede power to civilians.

Those protests led to the formation of the mixed civilian-military transitional government which was toppled in last year's coup.

Sudan has been roiled by near-weekly protests as the country's economic woes have deepened since Burhan seized power last year.

"June 30 is our way to bring down the coup and block the path of any fake alternatives," said the Forces for Freedom and Change, an alliance of civilian groups whose leaders were ousted in the coup.

Alongside the African Union and east African bloc IGAD, the United Nations has been attempting to broker talks between the generals and civilians, but they have been boycotted by all the main civilian factions.

The UN has warned that the deepening economic and political crisis has pushed one third of the country's population of more than 40 million towards life-threatening food shortages.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)