A top Sudanese general said Sunday that snipers shot at least five civilians and three members of a paramilitary force as vast crowds of protesters demonstrated in Khartoum demanding civilian rule.
“There are snipers who are firing on people, they shot three members of the Rapid Support Force and five or six citizens,” said General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, the RSF’s commander and deputy chief of the ruling military council.
“There are infiltrators, people who want to jeopardise progress,” he said at a rally outside of Khartoum broadcast on state television.
Dagalo did not say whether there were any deaths, and it was not immediately possible to independently confirm his reports of shootings.
Tens of thousands of protesters had taken to the streets across Sudan to protest against the generals who seized power after the army ousted longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.
The mass protest was the first such mobilisation since a June 3 crackdown on a protest camp in the capital left dozens dead and hundreds wounded.
Dagalo had warned on Saturday he would not tolerate “vandalism” by protesters.
“There are vandals, there are people who have an agenda, a hidden agenda, we don’t want problems,” said Dagalo, who is commander of the RSF.
Sudan’s ruling military junta on Saturday warned that the country’s protest leaders would be held responsible for “any victims” at a planned mass protest the next day.
The statement prompted severe concern among Sudanese activists who fear that the military plans to violently disperse marched and is taking preemptive action by pinning the blame on the Alliance for Freedom and Change (AFC), an opposition umbrella group representing protesters.
Dagalo, more widely known by his nickname Himedti, repeated those warnings earlier on Saturday.
Himedti is deputy leader of the country’s military council and commander of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), an officialised paramilitary offshoot of the Janjaweed militias accused of widespread war crimes in the Darfur conflict.
Eyewitnesses say RSF troops were the main perpetrators of the crackdown that began on 3 June. They allegedly shot, beat and raped protesters and doctors. They are also alleged to have participated in looting and vandalism.