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Sudan security forces fire tear gas at anti-coup protesters as two-day civil disobedience starts

Sudanese women walk in front of tires set ablaze by anti-coup demonstrators in the capital Khartoum, following calls for civil disobedience to protest last month's military coup, on November 7, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Sudan's security forces have fired tear gas at teachers who were taking part in an anti-coup rally in the capital Khartoum amid an ongoing crackdown on protesters who are furious over the recent military coup in the African country.

Carrying banners reading "no, no to military rule," demonstrators gathered outside the Education Ministry in the capital on Sunday to demand the military government step back and allow a transition to "full civilian rule."

The rally took place after Sudan's military chief and de facto leader General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who led a military coup last month, replaced heads of department at the Education Ministry, as part of sweeping changes to the government’s structure.  

"We organized a silent stand against the decisions by Burhan outside the Ministry of Education," said Mohamed al-Amin, a geography teacher, adding, "Police later came and fired tear gas at us though we were simply standing on the streets and carrying banners."

There were no confirmed reports of casualties, but about some 90 teachers have been detained by the security forces.

The teachers' union also said in a post on Facebook, "The protest rejects the return of remnants of the old regime" linked to ousted president Omar al-Bashir.

On October 25, Sudan's top general, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the cabinet and the ruling military-civilian sovereign council. He also declared a state of emergency and put Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok under an effective house arrest, while detaining other leading members of his government.

Since then, the military has been mounting a harsh crackdown on protesters, who have been taking to the streets after Sudan's main opposition coalition called for civil disobedience and protests across the country hours after the apparent military coup.

According to medics, at least 14 people have been killed and 300 others wounded in protests since the army's power grab.

Roads, bridges, communication lines, and internet services have been largely blocked since the coup was staged.

Sunday’s rally followed a call for a two-day civil disobedience by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA).

"The Sudanese people have rejected the military coup," the SPA in a post on its Twitter account, vowing "no negotiation, no partnership, no legitimacy".

"We will start by barricading the main streets to prepare for the mass civil disobedience on Sunday and Monday," it said, urging protesters to avoid confrontation with the security forces.

Overnight demonstrators set up barricades for the first of two days of planned civil disobedience to protest against last month's coup.

Anti-coup protesters were seen piling up bricks and large slabs to block streets in Khartoum and neighboring cities, according to witnesses and AFP correspondents.

By Sunday morning, some shops were still open but others were shuttered in Khartoum and its twin cities of Omdurman and Khartoum-North, according to witnesses.

"Movement on the streets is less than usual but there is not full blockage of streets or closure of shops" after the civil disobedience call, said a witness from Omdurman who declined to give his name fearing reprisals.

The SPA circulated its latest appeals via text messages to bypass internet outages since the putsch.

Before the military coup, Sudan was ruled by a transitional government that was installed in the aftermath of the ouster of president al-Bashir in a palace coup two years ago. The military shared power with civilians in a transitional authority since the removal of Bashir in 2019 in a popular uprising after three decades in power.

The military takeover has sparked international condemnation, including punitive aid cuts and demands for a swift return to civilian rule.

Burhan has denied that the army's seizure of power constitutes a coup, saying the transitional government was overthrown to avoid a civil war in the African country.

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