OMDURMAN, Sudan (Reuters) - Hundreds of people gathered in the Sudanese city of Omdurman across the River Nile from Khartoum on Monday to protest against the ruling military a day after at least seven people died in clashes between security services and protesters.
Members of the crowd told Reuters they came out after residents found the bodies of three young men riddled with bullets and dressed in civilian clothes close to the river early in the morning.
At least 600 people blocked off the main road leading to White Nile bridge, which connects Omdurman to Sudan’s capital, and set up barricades as riot police looked on.
Dozens tearfully chanted, “Down with military rule” and “Blood for blood, we will not accept blood money” near the bodies that were covered in flags. A bloodied protest banner and megaphone lay nearby.
It was not possible to verify who had killed the three men, but witnesses said a truck had dumped them there.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Sudan on Sunday demanding the military hand over power to civilians, in the biggest demonstrations since a deadly raid by security forces on a protest camp in central Khartoum three weeks ago.
Clashes between protesters and security forces left at least seven people dead and 181 wounded, 27 of them by live fire, Sudan’s state news agency SUNA reported late on Sunday.
The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum denounced the use of live ammunition against demonstrators as “reprehensible” and said in a message on its Twitter account that military authorities should be held accountable for the deaths.
Madani Abbas Madani, a leader of the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) opposition coalition put the death toll from Sunday’s protest at nine and said at least 200 others were injured and blamed the military council for the violence.
The military council, which had ruled Sudan since President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April, has accused the FFC of responsibility for the violence and said at least three government forces were injured by live fire.
Madani also announced at a news conference in Khartoum that the FFC, which represents various opposition and protest groups, planned to hold another protest he described as a march of 1 million people on July 13 and a day of civil disobedience the following day.
“We will not abandon the path of political negotiation, and we will not drop the path of peaceful escalation,” Madani said.
Sudan’s military overthrew Bashir on April 11 after months of demonstrations against his three decades in office.
Opposition groups kept up those demonstrations as they pressed the military to hand over power, but talks collapsed after members of the security services raided the sit-in protest camp outside the defence ministry on June 3.
A doctor’s group linked to the opposition said that more than 100 people were killed during the June raid and that the bodies of 40 people had been pulled from the Nile afterwards.
The FFC had called for a million people to demonstrate on Sunday - the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought Bashir to power, and the African Union’s deadline for Sudan’s military rulers to hand over to civilians or face further sanctions.
Sudan is strategically positioned between the Middle East and Africa and its stability is seen as crucial for a volatile region. Various powers including wealthy Gulf states are vying for influence in the nation of 40 million.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Sudan and Nayera Abdallah in Cairo; writing by Nadine Awadalla and Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker