Sudan Coup: Tear gas fired at protesters

Tear gas fired at Sudan protesters as calls grow for PM's release
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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok "be released immediately", before the Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sudan.
Angry citizens stood their ground on barricaded streets where tyres burned, chanting "No to military rule" [Getty]

Sudanese security forces fired tear gas at anti-army protesters late on Tuesday, witnesses said, as calls mounted for the release of the deposed prime minister a day after a military coup.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok "be released immediately", before the Security Council held an emergency meeting on Sudan.

His demand added to a chorus of condemnation that has seen the US suspend aid and the EU threaten likewise.

The coup comes just over two years into a delicate power-sharing arrangement between the military and civilians after the army's ouster during enormous street protests in April 2019 of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The army's power grab has raised questions over Hamdok's whereabouts, but top General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said the civilian leader was "at my home... (and) in good health".

A military source, who requested anonymity, later said Hamdok had been escorted home, with "security measures" erected "around the perimeter" of Hamdok's residence.

The prime minister's office in the afternoon had demanded his immediate release and appealed for the "liberation of everyone" arrested, including Hamdok's wife, several ministers and civilian members of the power-sharing council.

Angry citizens stood their ground on barricaded streets where tyres burned, chanting "No to military rule", the day after four people were shot dead by security forces, according to a doctors' group.

In a late Tuesday incident, witnesses in the Bari district of Khartoum said security forces fired tear gas at protesters blocking a main road in opposition to the coup.

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Money on the line

Internationally, Burhan's declaration of a state of emergency and dissolution of the government also provoked an immediate backlash.

The United States, a key backer of the transition, strongly condemned the military's actions and suspended hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, before the European Union late Tuesday threatened "serious consequences" for Sudan's rulers, including to financial support.

Sudan risks "going back into a period of being shunned by the rest of the world" and losing badly needed financial aid, said Alex de Waal, a veteran expert on Sudan who is executive director of the World Peace Foundation.

Hamdok's government earlier this year unlocked international financial assistance, after it was frozen for years under Bashir.

On Tuesday the country was already physically cut off. The aviation authority said all flights have been suspended until October 30.

Sudan's ambassadors to Belgium, France and Switzerland on Tuesday made clear their allegiance to the civilian leaders, declaring their diplomatic missions as "embassies of the Sudanese people and their revolution", according to the Information Ministry.

Shops around the capital were shuttered following calls for a campaign of civil disobedience.

"We will only leave when the civilian government is restored," said 32-year-old demonstrator Hisham al-Amin.

It was the latest coup in one of the world's most underdeveloped countries, which has experienced only rare democratic interludes since independence in 1956.

Analysts said the generals are trying to maintain their historic control.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed concern over the reported use of live ammunition against protesters.

A troika of countries previously involved in mediating Sudanese conflicts - the US, UK and Norway - said "the actions of the military represent a betrayal of the revolution".

The African Union and Arab League also expressed concern.

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Divisions

Bashir, who ruled Sudan with an iron fist for three decades, is in jail in Khartoum following a corruption conviction.

He is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide over the civil war in Darfur.

The 2019 power-sharing deal after his fall saw Sudan ruled by a Sovereign Council of civilian and military representatives tasked with overseeing a transition to a full civilian government.

In recent weeks, the cracks in the leadership had grown wide. The civilian movement that spearheaded demonstrations against Bashir split in two and the splinter group sided with the military.

Tensions had long simmered within that movement, known as the Forces for Freedom and Change, but divisions ratcheted up after what the government said was a failed coup on September 21 this year.

Burhan had dismissed as "slander" suggestions that the army was involved in that manoeuvre.

Analysts have expressed concern that resistance to the coup could be brutally repressed.

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