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Sudan protesters defy army curfew and vow to continue sit-in

Sudanese demonstrators block the vehicle of an army officer in Khartoum as they protest against Bashir being replaced by a military-led transitional council. Photograph: Reuters

Sudanese pro-democracy protesters who spent four months on the streets rallying against the country’s autocratic president are now defying the military leaders who overthrew him on Thursday.

Thousands kept up their sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum overnight and into Friday morning despite a curfew imposed by the army after the arrest of Omar al-Bashir.

Organisers of the demonstration said they would keep up the campaign. It was not clear if the army would move against the protesters.

The mood in the crowd appeared festive, with protesters playing music and chanting “down again” – a reference to the defence minister, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf. Auf, who is on a US sanctions list in relation to the genocide in Darfur, was sworn in as the head of a new military transitional council, which said it would take charge for the next two years.

In a televised address on Thursday, Auf announced “the toppling of the regime” and said Bashir had been detained in “a secure place”, bringing an end to his three decades in power.

Washington said Khartoum should “exercise restraint and allow space for civilian participation within the government”. The state department spokesman Robert Palladino told reporters: “The Sudanese people should determine who leads them and their future and the Sudanese people have been clear and are demanding a civilian-led transition.”

The EU urged the army to carry out a “swift” handover to civilian rule.

Auf said the country’s borders and airspace would be shut until further notice. Footage was later broadcast on state television of him taking the oath to become head of the council, alongside his new deputy, the army chief of staff, Lt Gen Kamal Abdul Murof Al-mahi.

Bashir, who swept to power in a coup in 1989, was one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents. He is wanted by the international criminal court on charges of genocide and war crimes.

Organisers of the protests, which have rocked Sudan since December, have vowed to press on until the whole regime is swept aside. The Alliance for Freedom and Change group said the regime had kept “the same faces”, and urged demonstrators “to continue their sit-in in front of army headquarters and across all regions and in the streets”.

Alaa Salah, who has become an icon of the protest movement after a video of her leading demonstrators in chants went viral, said: “Change will not happen with Bashir’s entire regime hoodwinking Sudanese civilians through a military coup.”

The military takeover on Thursday meant “we have not achieved anything”, said Adel, a protester outside the army headquarters, where defiant demonstrators have braved teargas and gunfire to keep up the sit-in.

“We will not stop our revolution. We are calling for the regime to step down, not only Bashir,” he said.

Copyright 2019 Agencies, the Guardian

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