Sudan protesters killed with military ammunition: Amnesty

AFP , Friday 3 Aug 2012

Amnesty International says at least eight Sudanese protesters were killed with military ammunition during protests in the South Darfur state capital Nyala

Bullet casings lie on the ground near a destroyed market at Jawa village in east Jebel Marra (South Darfur), 9 km (6 miles) West Deribat March 18, 2011. (Photo: Reuters)

At least eight Sudanese protesters, killed during unprecedented violence this week were shot dead with military-style ammunition, Amnesty International said on Thursday.

They died during a protest sparked by high prices in the South Darfur state capital Nyala on Tuesday, in the worst violence since Arab Spring-style demonstrations began in Sudan more than six weeks ago.

"Medical staff at Nyala Public Hospital told Amnesty International that the wounds inflicted on the eight bodies admitted to their morgue were consistent with those caused by 5.56 mm and 7.62 mm automatic rifles," the London-based watchdog said.

It said paramilitary Central Reserve police were among the forces deployed.

The casualties were the first officially confirmed since protests sparked by high prices began in the capital Khartoum in mid-June.

Police said eight people died but they did not give the cause of death and said officers used a "low level of force" to control the situation after demonstrators burned a petrol station and police facilities.

A witness said demonstrators had stoned government buildings and burned tyres.

Amnesty said a total of at least 10 people, many of them high school students, died in the incident.

"The Sudanese government must investigate why protesters were directly targeted by the security force personnel who opened fire on them with live bullets," it said.

Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmud Ahmad has announced that an official fact-finding mission will probe "the causes of the incidents," the state SUNA news agency reported.

Some activists in the capital Khartoum have said that although tear gas, rubber bullets and beatings have been commonly used against protesters, the government fears creating martyrs.

In 1964, the death of student Ahmed al-Qureshi sparked Khartoum's "October Revolution," which brought down the military government then in power.

Sudanese proudly point to this event, which occurred long before the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere since late 2010.

An analyst told AFP that the central government has generally been "so cautious" in handling the protests, and its policy had likely not changed before Tuesday's demonstration.

But the security personnel dispatched may have been edgy and lacking skill.

"If you go to Darfur, you don't get your best forces. People are less trained, less prepared and they are also frequently much more at risk," he said, declining to be named.

Banditry, inter-ethnic fighting and clashes between rebel groups and government forces continue in Darfur although violence is much lower than at its peak in 2003 and 2004 after non-Arab ethnic groups rose up against the Khartoum regime.

The United Nations says more than 300,000 people died in Darfur, while the Khartoum government put the death toll at 10,000.

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