Attacks on protesters spur clashes; 5 killed

Sudanese protesters said Tuesday that security agents loyal to ousted president Omar Hassan al-Bashir attacked their sit-ins overnight, setting off clashes that killed five people, including an army officer, and heightened tensions as the opposition holds talks with the military.

Both the protesters and the ruling military council said the violence was instigated by Bashir loyalists from within the security forces. Over the course of his 30-year rule, Bashir formed a shadowy security apparatus made up of several paramilitary groups.

The U.S. Embassy, however, blamed the military council, saying its attempts earlier in the day to remove roadblocks, and its use of tear gas against protesters, led to the violence later that night.

On Tuesday, the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, which represents the protesters, also blamed the council. The group said the council did not provide the necessary protection for the protesters. The group called for an independent committee to investigate the violence. It said peaceful protests would continue until power is transferred to civilians.

The clashes erupted after nightfall on Monday in several locations across the country, including the main sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.

The military removed Bashir from power on April 11 after four months of mass protests. On Monday, prosecutors announced they had charged him with involvement in killing and incitement to kill protesters during the uprising, according to the official Sudan News Agency.

— Associated Press

Authorities arrest 23 in attacks on Muslims

Police in Sri Lanka arrested 23 people on Tuesday over a spate of attacks on Muslim-owned homes and shops in apparent reprisal for the Easter bombings by Islamist militants.

The April 21 attacks targeted churches and hotels, killing more than 250 people and fueling fears of a backlash against the island nation’s minority Muslims.

Mobs moved through towns in Sri Lanka’s northwest on motorbikes and in buses, ransacking mosques, burning Korans and attacking shops with gasoline bombs in rioting that began Sunday, Muslim residents said. A man was killed trying to protect his home from attack.

Police said they arrested 23 people across the island on suspicion of inciting violence against Muslims, who make up less than 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s 22 million people, who are predominantly Sinhalese Buddhists.

Sri Lanka has a history of ethnic and religious violence. In recent years, Buddhist hard-liners have stoked hostility against Muslims, saying influences from the Middle East had made that community more conservative and isolated.

Last year, scores of mosques and Muslim homes and businesses were destroyed as Buddhist mobs ran amok for three days in Kandy.

— Reuters

Pyongyang says U.S. must return cargo ship

North Korea on Tuesday called the U.S. seizure of a North Korean cargo ship involved in banned coal exports a “robbery” and demanded that the vessel be returned immediately.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency carried a statement by an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman who accused the United States of betraying the spirit of a summit agreement last June between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump.

Kim and Trump agreed then to a vague statement calling for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and improved bilateral ties, but a second meeting between the two collapsed in February over mismatched demands in sanctions relief and disarmament.

The seizure of the cargo ship, which was announced last week, came at a delicate moment in bilateral ties, with North Korea resuming weapons tests that appear intended to force the United States to ease sanctions.

The cargo ship had been detained by Indonesia in April 2018 while transporting coal. It was seized by the United States and taken Saturday to American Samoa, where it will undergo inspections.

North Korea is banned from exporting coal under U.N. sanctions toughened in 2017 to punish increasingly powerful weapons tests that year. Experts believe coal and other mineral exports help finance the North’s weapons industry.

— Associated Press

Bosnia floods put Balkan neighbors on alert: Torrential rain and floods in some parts of Bosnia forced authorities to declare an emergency, while neighboring nations were put on alert. Police were searching for a 6-year-old boy who fell into a swollen creek near the central town of Zepce. Hundreds of households in central and northwest Bosnia were flooded when rivers burst their banks after the rains started Sunday. But officials said the situation was less severe than in 2014, when the heaviest rains and floods in 120 years hit Bosnia and Serbia, killing dozens.

— From news services