Sudan's Al Burhan grants wider powers to security forces amid growing opposition

Medics say 178 were injured in violence during Saturday's anti-military rallies, with eight suffering bullet wounds

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Sudan's army chief and coup leader, Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, issued a decree on Sunday authorising security forces and agencies to carry out home searches, surveillance and detention of suspects under the state of emergency he declared when he seized power two months ago.

The decree, a copy of which was seen by The National, also grants immunity from prosecution to members of the security forces and agencies while carrying out these duties.

Their validity of the additional powers will cease when the state of nationwide emergency is lifted, according to the decree, a senior security official familiar with the matter said.

The wide-ranging powers given to the security forces and agencies on Sunday come as Gen Al Burhan's military rule is being met with growing opposition from pro-democracy groups demanding a civilian government and an end to the military's political role.

At least 48 protesters have been killed and hundreds injured during anti-military rallies held since the October 25 coup, which has been internationally condemned.

Security forces and agencies had similar powers under dictator Omar Al Bashir, who was removed by army generals in April 2019 after four months of street protests against his 29-year rule.

The transitional government that took office after his removal stripped security forces and agencies from these powers, leaving the agencies with the sole task of gathering intelligence and banning police arrests without judicial warrants.

Activists at the weekend said security agents had stormed the homes of pro-democracy activists, detaining an unspecified number. Security agents had detained and later released scores of activists, politicians, journalists, trade union leaders in the weeks that followed the October 25 coup.

Medics linked to the pro-democracy movement, meanwhile, said on Sunday that 178 people were injured during anti-military rallies the previous day. Eight of them suffered wounds caused by live rounds.

Sudanese authorities said 58 police officers were injured during the protests and 114 others were detained and would face prosecution.

Witnesses said security forces used tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live rounds when they confronted tens of thousands of protesters in Khartoum on Saturday.

The rallies were in protest against the October coup and urging the military to quit politics altogether.

At least 48 protesters have been killed since army chief Gen Al Burhan seized power on October 25. Hundreds have been injured.

Gen Al Burhan says his coup was meant to correct the country’s democratic transition nearly three years after authoritarian ruler Omar Al Bashir was removed. The coup, he maintains, was designed to save Sudan from sliding into civil war.

On Sunday, doctors aligned with the pro-democracy movement said security forces had chased injured protesters into hospitals, where they fired stun grenades and tear gas, and terrorised medical staff attending to the wounded.

They said some of the wounded were injured while in hospital and that security forces acted in a similar way in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan.

“We call upon the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the European Union, the African Union and all international entities and diplomatic allies to stand by the people of Sudan in their quest for freedom, peace and Justice,” the medics said.

The Forces for Freedom and Change, a pro-democracy alliance of political parties and professional and trade unions, said it had made significant progress in talks to unite all opposition movements in a single “popular front”.

It called for the Sudanese to take part in a new round of rallies against military rule planned for Thursday.

“We value our people’s diligent commitment to face the coup and insist on downing it,” it said.

“We renew our adherence to the slogans of our glorious revolution and the creation of a fully civilian authority. Victory will come even if it takes time to arrive.”

Gen Al Burhan has reinstated Abdalla Hamdok, the prime minister he dismissed and placed under house arrest on October 25. But his decision, on November 21, has fuelled protests and cost the prime minister, a British-educated economist, much of his credibility.

The US and the World Bank, two of Khartoum’s main foreign donors, suspended aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

More recently, the US, Britain and other western powers demanded that authorities investigate reports that women who took part in pro-democracy rallies on December 19 were raped. Members of the security forces are blamed for the assaults.

Updated: December 26, 2021, 5:35 PM