Sudanese rally against deadly crackdown on student protest

CAIRO (AP) — Thousands of Sudanese students joined protests across the country Tuesday condemning the violent dispersal of a demonstration the day before that left four high school students dead.

The killings reignited tensions between the pro-democracy movement behind the protests that toppled President Omar al-Bashir in April and the military council that has ruled since then. The two sides had been set to hold talks on Tuesday to finalize a power-sharing agreement, but those were postponed after the killing of the students.

Security forces opened fire on a demonstration by teenage students in the city of Obeid on Monday. At least five people were killed, including four students. Protest leaders say they were killed by security forces, while local authorities say they have launched an investigation. The military condemned the violence.

Tuesday’s marches were called by the Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded the uprising that began in December and eventually toppled al-Bashir. The umbrella group is part of a larger coalition, known as the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, that is negotiating with the military over a transition to civilian rule.

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Videos posted online showed thousands of students in school uniforms, with schoolbags on their backs, marching Tuesday in the streets of Khartoum and other places. One video showed students in the capital waving Sudanese flags and chanting slogans such as: “Free revolutionaries, we will continue our way forward.”

Authorities in the eastern province of Kassala suspended classes until “further notice,” according to the state-run SUNA news agency. Officials in North Kordofan, where Monday’s shootings took place, have also suspended classes and imposed a nightly curfew in parts of the province.

The teachers’ committee, which is part of the SPA, called for suspending classes nationwide until the formation of a civilian government.

The protest coalition and the military council had been set to meet Tuesday, but protest leader Nour al-Din Salah said his side pushed the meeting to Wednesday following the latest violence.

“A delegation from the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change has travelled to the city of Obeid… The delegation includes the main negotiators,” Salah said.

Both sides agreed on the outline of a power-sharing deal earlier this month but remain divided on a number of key issues, including whether military commanders should be immune from prosecution for violence against protesters.

Last month, security forces violently dispersed the protesters’ main sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, killing scores of people and plunging the fragile transition into crisis. The two sides returned to talks later that month after intense pressure from the United States and its Arab allies.

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