August 2, 2019 / 5:45 AM / 22 days ago

Sudan detains nine soldiers after protesters killed

CAIRO (Reuters) - Sudan’s military council spokesman said on Friday that nine soldiers from the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the country’s most powerful paramilitary group, have been dismissed and detained in connection with the killing of protesters this week.

Lieutenant General Shams El Din Kabbashi added that the governor of North Kordofan state and its security council would also be held accountable for the killing of six people, including four schoolchildren, in the state capital El-Obeid on Monday.

The country’s main opposition coalition, the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), welcomed the action against the RSF members, saying it would prevent further violence.

Representatives of the FFC and the council had gathered on Friday to continue negotiations over a constitutional declaration that had started on Thursday, state news agency SUNA said

Formerly known as the Janjaweed, the RSF fighters armed with assault rifles, machine guns mounted on trucks and rocket-propelled grenades are widely feared. They were hardened by war in Darfur against rebels who rose up against the government.

Opposition groups have accused the RSF, led by the deputy head of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council, of killing scores of protesters demanding a return to civilian rule since President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April.

The RSF’s commander, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, has previously denied these claims and blamed “infiltrators” instead.

Hundreds of thousands of Sudanese took to the streets on Thursday in response to the killings in El-Obeid, and opposition medics said four more protesters were killed and many injured by gunfire in Omdurman. Kabbashi said authorities were pursuing those suspected of involvement in the deaths in Omdurman.

A Sudanese national flag flutters as people demonstrate against the killing of protesting children, who were shot dead when security forces broke up a student protest in Khartoum, Sudan August 1, 2019, in this still image taken from video. Reuters TV via REUTERS

His remarks came at a press conference after a night of negotiations with opposition groups over a constitutional declaration, a document that would pave the way for a transitional government.

The two sides had signed a political deal in July setting a three-year transition period and a joint sovereign council. Talks over the constitutional declaration were called into question by the violence this week before being reconvened.

“The agreement is really now just around the corner,” Satea al-Hajj of the FFC said on Thursday as talks got underway.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum, Omar Fahmy and Nayera Abdallah in Cairo; Writing by Nafisa Eltahir and Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Giles Elgood

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