In Sudan crackdown, bullets fly as doctors struggle

KHARTOUM: During the chaos of a deadly raid on Sudanese protesters at a pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum on Monday, a man grimaced in pain as doctors sewed his ear back together with no anaesthetic.
He tried to help the man beside him, another victim of the worst violence since army officers toppled President Omar Hassan al Bashir on April 11.
Sudanese medics linked to the opposition said on Wednesday that the death toll from the violence has risen to more than 100, after 40 bodies were recovered from the Nile in Khartoum. Official death toll figures have not been released.
“He didn’t flinch once because he was holding hands with a guy who was getting a bullet taken out of his calf and that guy was in pain,” said a young medical student who treated the two men and many others.
“He was shouting, screaming, passing out. Everyone was trying to calm him down so this guy was holding his hand, trying to steady him.”
The medical student asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. Reuters could not independently verify his account of the crackdown.
Monday’s operation, when security forces stormed a protest camp outside the Ministry of Defence, was a major setback in efforts to create a democracy and rebuild a country plagued by rebellions, economic crises and international isolation caused by Bashir’s policies.
Talks between the Transitional Military Council (TMC), which has ruled Sudan since Bashir was overthrown, and the opposition have ground to a halt amid deep differences over who should lead a three-year transition to democracy.
The head of the TMC said on Wednesday the council was open to negotiations without conditions.
The medical student and a university student who took part in the sit-in said a large number of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) led the dawn assault.
The RSF, commanded by TMC deputy head General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commonly known as Hemedti, were accused by human rights groups of genocide during the war against rebels that began in Darfur in 2003.
Bashir’s government denied allegations that the Arab Janjaweed militias, later transformed into the RSF, had burned villages and raped and executed civilians.
The medical student first realized there was trouble at a barrier just outside the camp at 5 am. He heard bullets and saw people dropping as they ran towards him. He ran to a clinic at the sit-in.
“People were vomiting blood, choking on their own blood, drowning in it actually,” he said.
He and some doctors treated one man with a fractured skull. Brain tissue was spilling out, he said.
“He was punching and kicking. It took around five fully fit men just to hold him down while we stitched him, with barely any anaesthesia of any kind,” the student said.
“They didn’t look like they had any military training of any kind,” he said.
The RSF could not be reached for comment, but Hemedti, in comments to RSF members carried on state TV, said: “We issued a decision today to investigate fairly and transparently what happened at the sit-in.”
In a statement, the military council said the RSF had a strong track record of defending Sudan against terrorism, and said an organised social media campaign since Monday’s violence was aimed at “spreading lies” and “fabricating charges”.
The TMC said some RSF members were attacked and people had put on their uniforms to impersonate them.
The RSF lacks the discipline of Sudan’s regular army but has played a vital role in strengthening the position of its new military leaders.— Reuters