Protests outside the military headquarters in Khartoum have continued for a third day in a resurgence of calls for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to step down. Clashes between the army and security forces broke out with exchanges of gunfire as protesters defied attempts to disperse them.
“Outside the headquarters of the army, people were actually shouting and singing, calling for the downfall of the government,” said Nabil Adeb, chair of the Sudanese Monitor for Human Rights group.
A sit-in outside the army headquarters began on Saturday marking a renewal in demonstrations that had dwindled since the imposition of a state of emergency by Bashir.
Exchanges of gunfire broke out on two occasions with some activists claiming soldiers opened fire on Sudanese security forces to defend the protesters.
There was “shooting between the security/intelligence [agency] and the Sudanese army because they wanted to shoot the people in front of the army building”, said Mohamed al-Asbat, a Paris-based spokesman for the Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the groups who had coordinated protests.
Asbat, a former journalist who has previously spent time behind bars for his work, said two soldiers were killed and members of the security forces were forced to flee the site of the demonstrations after coming under fire.
“It started around two o'clock in the morning on each night, it started with four or five cars full of policemen or security men, trying to shoot at the demonstrators with teargas and firearms in order to force them to disperse,” said Adeb, describing incidents on Saturday and Sunday night.
“This was answered by some of the army, some parts of the army shooting at them from inside the headquarters, they just started to attack the security who had to evacuate,” Adeb added.
The army complex is also home to the president's residence and buildings housing Sudan's defence ministry.
The anti-government rally is one of the largest rallies since demonstrations began in December and protesters are calling on the army to back the movement and call for Bashir's resignation.
“Their mood was something like jubilant,” said Adeb, in a telephone interview from Istanbul, Turkey. “An atmosphere of defiant people, almost sure of bringing down the government,” he added, relaying reports he is receiving from contacts in Khartoum.
“People are very happy and they're just waiting for the final hours of the al-Bashir regime,” said Asbat, describing a diverse crowd of protesters including political leaders, university professors and football players.
Demonstrations in Sudan started in December over increases to the cost of living, but quickly morphed into a broad-based protest movement against Bashir, who has ruled the country since he took power in 1989.