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Sudan military admits it ordered brutal crackdown on protesters

Sudan’s ruling military council has, for the first time, admitted it ordered the dispersal of a sit-in in capital Khartoum, which left scores dead, as diplomats from the United States and African nations step up efforts for a solution to the country’s political crisis.

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) “decided to disperse the sit-in”, said spokesman Shams al-Din Kabashi on Thursday.

Protesters had staged the weeks-long sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum following the military’s overthrow of long-time leader Omar al-Bashir in April.

Sudan’s pro-democracy protesters continued their agitation, demanding that the TMC, which took over from al-Bashir, hand power to a civilian-led transitional body. On June 3, days after talks between protest leaders and the military collapsed, armed men in military fatigues broke up the camp in an operation that left 120 people dead, according to the doctors, who also said at least 40 bodies were recovered from the Nile.

The health ministry put the nationwide death toll for that day at 61.

“We ordered the commanders to come up with a plan to disperse this sit-in. They made a plan and implemented it … but we regret that some mistakes happened,” Kabashi said on Thursday.

Kabashi also blamed protesters once again for the breakdown in negotiations between the military and protest groups.

“What is delaying the negotiations is the false understanding of a civilian-led government … In my view, civilian is the authorities, the ruling, the task which we agreed on. After we agreed that government ministers and the legislative council would be civilian-led, they are still screaming civilian, civilian,” he said.

“We believe the majority [of the sovereign council] should be military men and the leadership should be the military. They [protest groups] believe otherwise. We insist that the military is the sole guarantor for peace and stability in the transitional phase.”

At the end of the conference, Kabashi said that the military’s plan on June 3 had been to clear an area near the sit-in site known as “Colombia” – usually inhabited by drug peddlers – and that the TMC regretted what happened instead.

He said the findings of an investigation into the incident would be released on Saturday.

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