KHARTOUM, Sudan — Protesters filled the streets of Sudan’s capital and cities across the country on Sunday to renew their demand for a civilian-led government in a resurgence of an uprising that was quieted by a violent crackdown in early June.
Masses turned out for the largest demonstrations since scores of protesters were killed in the crackdown that began June 3. Organizers estimated turnout in the hundreds of thousands.
Security forces were deployed across Khartoum in large numbers. Reports from around the capital indicated that demonstrations in most neighborhoods remained peaceful, but some areas saw clashes between protesters and riot police, who fired tear gas and blank rounds.
Protesters on Africa Street, near the airport, charged through clouds of tear gas to confront armed security forces, who fired warning shots into the air. Protesters rubbed the leaves of nearby neem trees onto their faces to get relief from the tear gas.
Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, the deputy head of the governing transitional military council, said on state television that snipers shot at least five civilians and three paramilitary soldiers, the Reuters news agency reported. He did not provide details or say whether anyone was killed.
Soliman Abdel-Gabar, acting undersecretary of health, reported Sunday that at least seven people died during the day’s disturbances, according to Reuters. He said 181 people were injured, including 27 with bullet wounds. The Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors, a professional group associated with the protests, said five protesters were killed by gunfire in Omdurman, Khartoum’s sister city across the Nile, and 200 miles north in the city of Atbara.
The protest movement, which began in Atbara in December, succeeded in bringing down the presidency of Omar Hassan al-Bashir in April. Bashir had ruled since a coup in 1989; Sunday is the 30th anniversary of that coup.
A transitional military council stepped in quickly to take Bashir’s place. But protesters have been demanding civilian rule.
The demonstrations on Sunday marked the return of street pressure on the military council. But it was unclear whether they would have any impact on negotiations between the protesters and the council.
A vast sit-in on June 3 was violently dispersed by the military council. The health ministry said 61 were killed over the next two days; protest organizers say that the number was 130 and that many bodies were dumped into the White Nile and Blue Nile rivers, which converge near Khartoum’s center.
The organizers of Sunday’s marches included professional and neighborhood associations. They had hoped to draw out a million people, or about a fifth of the population of Khartoum and its suburbs. Large turnouts were reported from cities across Sudan, including Atbara, where the protest movement was spurred by the rising cost of basic necessities such as bread and fuel.
Mohamed Ilyas, 21, led a march in Atbara in December that burned down a local office of Bashir’s party.
“Our demands have still not been met,” he said. “The matchbox I used to burn that place — it still has four matches. This is not over.”
Sunday’s protests were organized almost entirely without Internet service, which has been shut off for almost a month. Graffiti announcements blanket many of the city’s walls, and small groups have walked through neighborhoods with megaphones to spread the word.
Sudan has several militias that operate semi-independently from its military. One of them, the Rapid Support Forces, is particularly reviled by protesters for its alleged role in breaking up the sit-in. RSF troops were deployed all around Khartoum on Sunday, as were various units of the army and police.
The RSF is led by Dagalo, who is the supplier of more than 15,000 ground troops to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ ground offensive in nearby Yemen. Hemedti and the military council have received vocal support, as well as financial backing, from those countries and also neighboring Egypt.
The protests were driven in part by a desire for justice for those killed June 3 and 4 as the RSF cracked down on protests around the city, participants said.
Outside a small brick house painted lavender in Omdurman, Ahmed Abdelrahman led a smaller version of the marches that filled other parts of the city.
Abdelrahman said he was walking down the street June 4 when Oudai Bashir Noori, 14, a friend of his younger brother, was shot by security forces.
“He was targeted because he had been at the protests,” Abdelrahman said. “I carried his bleeding body. How can we let the military win?”
But inside the compound, Bashir Noori, Oudai’s father, had barred his five other children from participating in Sunday’s marches.
He has tried to stay composed in front of his children, but it is hard when he thinks about Oudai’s ambitions. The boy had wanted to be president of Sudan one day.
When Abdelrahman brought Oudai to the house, he said, he could see that the bullet had passed just a few centimeters above his son’s heart. An unsuccessful surgery lasted five hours.
It took weeks to get a murder case opened, and it still hasn’t been formally filed.
“I told my sons, ‘No, absolutely not,’ ” said Noori, 63. “More innocents are going to get killed. Now is the most dangerous time of the revolution. It is a game of thrones.”
He stood by his door as the protesters, many as young or younger than Oudai, marched down the dirt street, chanting revolutionary slogans.