Sudanese pro-democracy protesters maintained their sit-in at army headquarters to demand civilian rule, as soldiers quashed attempts by mystery gunmen to disperse the long-running demonstration that helped oust President Omar al-Bashir.
Gunfire rocked one side of the sprawling protest site in the capital, Khartoum, and witnesses said they saw troops apprehend a small group of masked men with firearms. “I asked some soldiers about their identity and they told me this is a group of snipers belonging to the old regime,” said one protester, Yassir Awad.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
Sudan, where al-Bashir was ousted after four months of protests, is seeing a standoff between protesters and a transitional military council, which says it may govern the oil-producing African country for as long as two years. Demonstrators say the new rulers are stalwarts of al-Bashir’s 30-year reign and root-and-branch change is essential.
The 75-year-old, who himself led a coup in 1989, became the second regional leader after Algeria’s military-backed president, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to leave this month in the face of nationwide protests. The events have stirred echoes of the Arab Spring uprisings that rocked the region from 2011.
The military says al-Bashir, who’s wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, is under house arrest. Uganda’s government said it would offer the ex-president asylum if he applied because of his rule in mediating a peace deal for South Sudan, a Ugandan newspaper reported.
The main South Sudanese rebel leader, Riek Machar, returned to Khartoum after attending a spiritual retreat at the Vatican, where Pope Francis urged him and President Salva Kiir to respect the latest accord to end a five-year civil war.