ImageProtesters burning tires in Khartoum, Sudan, after the military detained civilian leaders on Monday.
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Sudan’s military seized power on Monday, detaining the prime minister and other civilian political leaders in an unfolding coup that appeared to deal a sweeping blow to hopes for a democratic transition in one of Africa’s largest countries.

Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the military chief, announced at a news conference that he was dissolving the country’s joint civilian-military government and imposing a state of emergency. Even so, he vowed to press ahead with elections planned for July 2023.

There had been growing signs for weeks that the military, unwilling to fully share power and intent on protecting its own interests, was plotting a takeover.

General al-Burhan, justifying the military’s actions, pointed to squabbling between rival civilian political factions in Sudan. “What the country is going through represents a threat,” he said.

As news of the coup spread, thousands of protesters flooded into the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and television broadcast images of people burning tires as plumes of smoke spiraled into the sky. But soon after that, the information ministry announced that internet connections had been cut, making it difficult to know what was actually happening inside the country.

There were reports that soldiers gunned down protesters gathered outside the army headquarters in Khartoum. A doctors’ group said that at least three had been killed and more than 80 wounded.

It was not clear where Mr. Hamdok was taken, or what condition he was in. Asked if the U.S. government knew his location, Ned Price, a State Department spokesman, said, “We have not been in touch with the prime minister.”

Sudan’s fledgling civilian-military government had been a fragile democratic hope for both Africa and the Arab world since the 2019 ouster of the country’s despised leader of three decades, Omar Hassan-al-Bashir.

Last month, the authorities thwarted an attempted coup by loyalists of Mr. Bashir. Then a crowd of antigovernment protesters camped out on the steps of the Presidential Palace in Khartoum for the past 10 days with quiet military support, Western officials and analysts said.

The military has also backed a disaffected tribal group that has blocked Sudan’s biggest port, Port Sudan on the Red Sea, deepening the misery of long-suffering civilians already grappling with soaring inflation and chronic shortages of currency, food and fuel.

As the coup unfolded on Monday, the tribal leader behind the blockade announced he was calling it off.

Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

The first sign of the coup came at dawn with the sudden disappearance of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok. The information ministry said in Facebook posts that the military had detained Mr. Hamdok and his wife, and pressured him to endorse the coup. When he refused, the ministry said, Mr. Hamdok was moved to an undisclosed location.

In detaining Mr. Hamdok, the military tore up a deal it signed in 2019, following the ouster of Mr. al-Bashir, when it agreed to share power with civilians until the country’s first free election in decades could be held.

General al-Burhan has been heading the Sovereignty Council, a joint civilian-military body that was overseeing the transition to democracy. As leader of that council, he has served as head of state for the past two years.

Under the terms of the transition, General al-Burhan was supposed to hand control of the sovereignty council to a civilian leader in the coming weeks — which would have put Sudan under full civilian control for the first time since 1989.

Sudanese civilian leaders on Monday urged citizens to take to the streets to defend the transition to democracy.

“The revolution is a revolution of the people,” the Sudanese Professionals Association, which is led by doctors, engineers and lawyers, said in a Facebook post. “Power and wealth belongs to the people. No to a military coup.”

It was still unclear whether the military, which is riven by divisions, was united behind the coup attempt. A senior Western official said that some Sudanese soldiers had stood between protesters and members of a powerful paramilitary group outside the military headquarters in Khartoum.

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transcript

Protesters Defy Military Coup in Sudan

Pro-democracy protesters filled the streets of the capital, Khartoum, after the military detained the prime minister, suspended the government and declared a state of emergency in an apparent coup. At least three protesters were killed.

[Crowd chanting] [crowd chanting] [crowd chanting]

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Pro-democracy protesters filled the streets of the capital, Khartoum, after the military detained the prime minister, suspended the government and declared a state of emergency in an apparent coup. At least three protesters were killed.CreditCredit…Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Troops fired on demonstrators outside the Sudanese army headquarters, killing at least three people and injuring more than 80, according to a doctors’ group, as pro-democracy protesters flooded into the streets of the capital, Khartoum, on Monday, after the military mounted a coup, detaining the prime minister, suspending the government and declaring a state of emergency.

The casualty figures were reported by the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, and other witnesses reported periodic bursts of gunfire around the city throughout the day. Nazim Sirag, a well-known pro-democracy activist, and Monim El Jak, an adviser to a cabinet minister, said they knew of at least two deaths.

The Sudanese ministry of culture and information said on Facebook that military forces had “shot live bullets at protesters rejecting the military coup in Khartoum.”

Video and photos posted on social media and broadcast on television stations showed demonstrators barricading roads, waving flags and banners, and burning tires, sending plumes of black smoke into the sky. They blocked streets with large stones and barbed wire as their processions grew. Masked protesters beat sticks against jerrycans and drums, brandished tree branches and held their phones to record the unfolding scenes.

“The people are stronger,” the demonstrators chanted. “Retreat is impossible,” they insisted, a reference to the possibility of returning to the three-decade autocratic rule of President Omar al-Bashir, who was deposed in 2019.

The U.S. Embassy said on Twitter that it had received reports that armed forces were “blocking certain areas in and around Khartoum,” and urged its citizens to “shelter in place.”

Schools, banks and business establishments were mostly closed, witnesses said, as the Sudanese Professionals Association, a pro-democracy coalition of trade unions and other groups, called for civil disobedience.

Ahmed Abusin, a 27-year-old businessman in Khartoum, said security officers had surrounded the airport and key government buildings. Gunfire could be heard, he said, as demonstrators flocked to the streets. There was no internet access and it was hard to make calls locally, he said, but no amount of restrictions would deter protesters.

“This coup has no support at all,” Mr. Abusin said in a telephone interview.

In the capital, women in colorful veils joined the protests. Some demonstrators waved the Sudanese flag, while others flashed the “V” for victory sign.

“We are challenging al-Burhan,” one woman said, referring to Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the head of the joint civilian-military council who announced the military’s takeover and the beginning of a state of emergency.

Protesters, some whistling and shrieking, carried each other on their backs and urged a return to the civilian transition.

“We are revolutionaries. We are free,” they chorused. “We will complete the journey.”

In the city of Omdurman near Khartoum, demonstrators urged their fellow citizens to resist the military. In Port Sudan in the east, hundreds of protesters could be seen gathering before heading off into a march chanting “peaceful, peaceful.”

With the internet and phone networks severely disrupted in an apparent attempt to stifle opposition to the military’s actions, many Sudanese citizens abroad expressed concern.

“Just like millions of Sudanese in and outside of Sudan, I feel disappointed and angry,” Khalid Albaih, a political cartoonist who was about to return to Sudan, said in an interview from Doha, Qatar. He said the Sudanese people were being denied democratic freedoms.

Simon Marks contributed reporting.

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Until a military coup in Sudan, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had the daunting task of trying to liberalize his country and lead it to democracy after three decades of dictatorship, while revitalizing its battered economy and normalizing relations with the world.

On Monday evening, his whereabouts remained unknown.

Mr. Hamdok, 65, an economist by profession, had spent much of his career working in international institutions. But in August 2019, he joined a three-year transitional government that was formed after a revolution that overthrew the dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir and left more than 100 Sudanese dead.

At the outset, the opposition coalition, Force of Freedom and Change, and the army’s Transitional Military Council agreed to govern jointly, laying a groundwork for transition to a fully civilian government and democratic elections in 2022. But in recent weeks, there were numerous signs that the army was unwilling to relinquish power, and expose itself to investigation of abuses during the Bashir regime.

Last year, Mr. Hamdok survived an assassination attempt in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital. “We paid a hefty price for this revolution for a better tomorrow and for sustainable peace,” he wrote on Twitter after the attack. “Our revolution should always be guarded by its peacefulness.”

His government repealed Bashir-era laws that placed restrictions on women like what they could study and wear, outlawed female genital mutilation and appointed women to lead five government ministries.

In the days before the coup, Mr. Hamdok was due to travel to Saudi Arabia to attend the Middle East Green Initiative Summit, which is aimed at reducing carbon emissions and began on Monday. But over the weekend, after meeting with military members of the Sovereignty Council that had been running the country, he decided against leaving the country, according to an official from his office who was in hiding and spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“He realized after that meeting that they were up to no good, that this moment was inevitable,” the official said in a phone interview.

Mr. Hamdok and his wife were removed from their home around 3:30 a.m., the official said. “Only God and the people who took him know where he is,” he said.

Before entering government, Mr. Hamdok had worked for many years for the United Nations, most recently as deputy executive secretary of its Economic Commission for Africa from 2011 to 2018.

He earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Khartoum and a doctorate in economic studies from the University of Manchester, in England. During the 1980s, he worked as a senior official for Sudan’s ministry of finance economic planning.

But after Mr. al-Bashir, then an army general, took power in military coup in 1989, Mr. Hamdok mostly worked abroad.

Before joining the U.N., he worked for Deloitte & Touche Management Consultants in Zimbabwe. He also worked as an economist at the African Development Bank in Ivory Coast, and as an adviser at the International Labor Organization.

Mr. Hamdok was also regional director of Africa and the Middle East for the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an intergovernmental organization that supports democratic institutions.

Abdi Latif Dahir contributed reporting.

Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

The weeks leading up to Monday’s coup in Sudan were fraught with tensions between the military and civilian leadership, which were battling to gain control of the nation’s future as a key deadline approached.

The jubilant mood that reigned when Omar al-Bashir was ousted in 2019 after 30 years in power gave way to sporadic protests, a failed coup last month and accusations from each side that the other had betrayed the ideals of the revolution.

Politicians insisted that the military should exit a ruling council ahead of Nov. 17, the date civilians said would signal the end of a three-year transition period. That would have been the first time civilians ruled the country in more than three decades.

As the deadline to transfer power approached, civilian leaders, including Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, called for investigations of the military for the role it may have played in massacres and corruption under Mr. al-Bashir. Without a seat in the government, the military worried that it would face investigations it could not control.

Last month, tribal leaders accused Mr. Hamdok of failing to deliver on promises, and sent people to Port Sudan, the main commercial artery, to block traffic. That worsened a deteriorating economic situation. Sudan was already battling inflation and a food shortage. Mr. Hamdok accused the military of fomenting the protests as the transition deadline approached.

There were wider fears among military officials that civilian rule would lead to them being removed from the gold industry. The armed forces play a major role in mining gold and exporting it to Dubai.

“They have fears, they have interests and they have ambitions,” Yasser Arman, a political adviser to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, said in an interview at his office in Khartoum last week. “We keep the partnership on one condition: that the end game should be a democratic civilian state.”

As the civilian government gained pace and began carrying out reforms, it quickly became clear that the military would lose power, he said.

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WASHINGTON — The United States froze $700 million in direct assistance to Sudan’s government in response to Monday’s coup, and American officials demanded that the Sudanese military immediately release civilian leaders and restore the transitional government.

Ned Price, the State Department spokesman, acknowledged frustrations among Sudanese officials and citizens over the sluggish pace of the transition to full civilian rule and free elections, two years after the longtime President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was ousted. But he said the United States would hold to account “those who may be responsible for derailing Sudan’s path to democracy.”

Mr. Price also warned the military to “refrain from any violence against protesters, including the use of live ammunition,” amid reports that soldiers had fired on protests, killing at least three and wounding more than 80.

“Potentially, of course, our entire relationship with this entity in Sudan will be evaluated in light of what has transpired unless Sudan is returned to the transitional path,” Mr. Price told journalists in Washington.

He said the coup had taken the United States by surprise, though a special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, was in Khartoum as recently as Sunday.

American officials have not been in touch with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok since he was taken into military custody, Mr. Price said, and they appeared not to know his whereabouts.

Humanitarian support to nongovernmental aid agencies working in Sudan will continue, Mr. Price said.

The $700 million that is being withheld is the full amount of economic support funding that the United States had committed to the transitional government, Mr. Price said. For it to be released, he said, Sudan’s military leaders will need to fully restore Mr. Hamdok and other civilian leaders to power. They will also need to release all people who have been detained and refrain from violence against protesters.

All “are tremendously important” to “any relationship we might have going forward,” Mr. Price said. He did not rule out the possibility of new sanctions in response to the military takeover.

Credit…Marwan Ali/Associated Press

The U.S. envoy for the Horn of Africa was in Sudan as recently as Saturday, urging the country’s military and civilian leaders to press ahead with its planned transition to democracy two days before the military seized power and detained top civilian political officials.

The envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, met over the weekend in the capital, Khartoum, with Sudan’s civilian prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, who was detained by the military on Monday. They were joined by other leaders, including Lt. Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who heads the military and a joint civilian-military governing council that was supposed to be overseeing the country’s transition to democracy.

Mr. Hamdok also sat on that council before he was detained. General al-Burhan announced on Monday that the military was dissolving the council and taking full control of the government.

On Monday, Mr. Feltman said the United States was “deeply alarmed” at reports of a military takeover of Sudan.

The United States has committed $377 million in humanitarian aid to Sudan this year, making it the nation’s biggest donor.

While it pushed the governing council and the military to follow the democratic transition plan and respect the rights of protesters, it did not set specific guidelines that were necessary for receipt of that aid.

“As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk U.S. assistance,” Mr. Feltman said on Monday.

In his weekend meetings in Khartoum, Mr. Feltman reiterated the Biden administration’s support for a civilian democratic transition, the American Embassy in Khartoum said on Twitter.

He called on all parties to stick by the constitutional declaration that the military and opposition signed after Mr. al-Bashir’s ouster and a peace agreement reached last year by the government and rebel groups.

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International organizations and the United States government reacted on Monday to the military coup in Sudan. The military detained the prime minister and other key civilian leaders and restricted access to the internet. The Arab League, the United Nations and the U.S. envoy to the region have all issued statements. More responses will be added here as they become available.

  • Antonio Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations:

    “I condemn the ongoing military coup in Sudan. Prime Minister Hamdok and all other officials must be released immediately. There must be full respect for the constitutional charter to protect the hard-won political transition. The U.N. will continue to stand with the people of Sudan.”

  • Ned Price, spokesman for the U.S. State Department:

    “The United States condemns the actions taken overnight by Sudanese military forces. The arrest of civilian government officials and other political leaders, including Prime Minister Hamdok, undermines the country’s transition to democratic, civilian rule. The civilian-led transitional government should be immediately restored.”

  • The Arab League:

    “The Arab League expresses concern over the developments in Sudan and calls on the Sudanese parties to abide by the signed transitional arrangements.”

  • Human Rights Watch:

    “The military takeover in Sudan strikes a major blow to the hopes that Sudanese from many walks of life had that a transition to a more fair and rights-abiding country was possible. As pro-democracy protesters take to the streets, security forces should protect their fundamental right to protest and refrain from using lethal force as has too often been the go-to response. The international community should press for a return to the civilian transition.”

  • The African Union:

    In a statement issued by the head of the African Union Commission, the groups called for “the immediate resumption of consultations between civilians and military within the framework of the Political Declaration and the Constitutional Decree. The Chairperson reaffirms that dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and its democratic transition. The Chairperson further calls for the release of all arrested political leaders and the necessary strict respect of human rights.”

  • Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union foreign affairs chief:

    “Following with utmost concern ongoing events in Sudan. The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process.”

  • Vicky Ford, Britain’s minister for Africa:

    “Today’s military coup in Sudan is an unacceptable betrayal of the Sudanese people and their democratic transition. Security forces must release P.M. Hamdok and other civilian leaders, and those who do not respect right to protest without fear of violence will be held to account.”

  • Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. envoy to the Horn of Africa:

    “The U.S. is deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government. This would contravene the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people.”

Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times

After President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan for nearly 30 years, was ousted in a coup in 2019, the country began taking tenuous steps toward democracy, but has been plagued with unrest and an attempted military takeover.

His government was replaced by an 11-member sovereign council consisting of six civilians and five military leaders, who were given the task of preparing the country for elections after a three-year transition period.

The council appointed Abdalla Hamdok, an economist who has held several United Nations positions, as prime minister, and his government immediately embarked on an ambitious program designed to placate pro-democracy demonstrators and rejoin the international community.

Mr. Hamdok’s government eased decades of strict Islamist policies, scrapping an apostasy law and abolishing the use of public flogging. It also undertook a political and economic overhaul. It revived talks with rebel groups, and began investigations into the bloody suppression of the Darfur region under Mr. al-Bashir, promising to prosecute and possibly hand over to the International Criminal Court those wanted for war crimes there.

But stubborn obstacles to progress remained, including the coronavirus pandemic, stagnant economic growth and continued violence in Darfur. Mr. Hamdok survived an assassination attempt, and concerns of a coup swirled when the country entered lockdown last year to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Last month Sudanese authorities said they had thwarted an attempted coup by loyalists of Mr. al-Bashir. Soldiers had tried to seize control of a state media building in the city of Omdurman, across the Nile from the capital, Khartoum, but they were stopped and arrested.

Mr. Hamdok blamed the failed coup on Bashir loyalists, both military and civilian, and described it as a near miss for the country’s fragile democratic transition.

The army chief of staff had been expected to hand over leadership of the sovereign council next month to Mr. Hamdok — a largely ceremonial post, but also one that signifies full civilian control of Sudan for the first time in decades.

Credit…Yasuyoshi Chiba/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The internet outage in Sudan on Monday amid an apparent coup came as no surprise to the Sudanese, who have endured many such blackouts in the past, including one that lasted more than two months under the country’s former dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Access was curtailed shortly after midnight throughout Sudan, according to NetBlocks, which monitors worldwide internet access. The organization initially said on its Twitter account that the internet was operating at about 34 percent of normal levels, but that dropped to about 24 percent later in the day.

Mr. al-Bashir worked to crush dissent during his three decades in power, waging war against separatists in the south, arresting many who publicly opposed his rule and enriching himself and his allies with the nation’s oil wealth.

As internet access became more prevalent in the East African nation, he often turned to cutting it off to silence the opposition.

The longest such blackout lasted 68 days in early 2019, essentially turning off social media including Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. It ended on Feb. 26, 2019, two months before Mr. al-Bashir was ousted, according to NetBlocks.

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Three years ago Sudanese protesters demonstrated against the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who had ruled the country for three decades since a 1989 coup.

Mr. al-Bashir had led his country through disastrous wars and famine, but it was anger over the rising price of bread that incited the first protests in December of 2018. After nearly four months of demonstrations and dozens of deaths at the hands of security forces, Mr. al-Bashir was forced from power in April 2019.

He had ruled Sudan longer than any other leader since the country gained independence in 1956, and was seen as a pariah in much of the world. He hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s, leading to American sanctions, and in 1998 an American cruise missile struck a factory in Khartoum for its alleged links to Al Qaeda.

Mr. al-Bashir presided over a ruinous 21-year war in southern Sudan, where his forces pushed barrel bombs from planes onto remote villages. The country ultimately divided into two parts in 2011, when South Sudan gained independence. But Mr. al-Bashir kept fighting brutal conflicts with rebels in other parts of Sudan.

In addition, he sent thousands of Sudanese soldiers to fight outside the country, including in the civil war in Yemen.

Mr. al-Bashir, 77, has been imprisoned since his ouster. He has been wanted by the international court in The Hague since 2009 over atrocities committed by his government in Darfur, where at least 300,000 people were killed and 2.7 million displaced in a war from 2003 to 2008, the United Nations estimates.

The international court has been pressing Sudan’s transitional government, which took over after Mr. al-Bashir was deposed, to hand him over along with other leaders accused of crimes in Darfur.

Sudanese courts convicted Mr. al-Bashir of money laundering and corruption charges in late 2019 and sentenced him to two years in detention. He still faces charges related to the 1989 coup, and could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment if he is convicted.

Credit…Bryan Denton for The New York Times

After decades isolated from the world under Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the leader who was toppled in 2019, Sudan made overtures to Israel, the United States and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where Mr. al-Bashir is wanted.

The country’s transitional leadership, part civilian and party military, hoped that by normalizing relations with former antagonists it could lure badly needed investment.

Mr. Bashir’s government had squandered revenue from oil production, and in 2011, South Sudan won its independence after a brutal civil war, forming its own nation, taking with it claims to more than 90 percent of the region’s oil reserves. That was a blow to Sudan’s economy, already beleaguered by international sanctions.

After the new government formed in 2019, it began taking steps to improve foreign ties.

The United States, which lifted many sanctions on Sudan in 2017, took the country off the list of nations that support terrorism last year. President Trump had announced the decision, saying the removal was made in exchange for a $335 million compensation payment to the victims of Al Qaeda’s attacks on American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, when Sudan was sheltering the group.

That deal was made possible after Sudan agreed to recognize Israel, part of a Trump administration effort to pressure Arab nations to normalize relations with the country. Sudan’s move, however, appeared short of actually establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.

Sudan’s cabinet also voted in August to ratify the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the International Criminal Court, and said it had agreed to extradite Mr. al-Bashir.

But his extradition remains a contentious issue in Sudan, and could now be in serious doubt. Some of the country’s military leaders were implicated along with Mr. al-Bashir in the atrocities in Darfur, a western region. If he were to be extradited, he might give evidence that could expose Sudan’s military leaders to prosecution.

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Pro-democracy groups in Sudan called for a nationwide civil disobedience campaign starting on Tuesday to protest the military coup, and elements of the ousted government said key groups of workers would go on strike.

If they come to pass, the actions could bring to a standstill a nation already facing dire political, economic and social crises.

Workers at both federal and state government offices, employees of the Central Bank of Sudan and members of the Khartoum tax workers’ union, among others, will not go to work, the government’s Culture and Information Ministry said in Facebook posts.

Doctors in parts of the country announced that they had withdrawn from military hospitals and would only provide emergency services inside government hospitals.

The Sudanese Professional Association, an umbrella of trade unions, said that pharmacies in Khartoum would take part in the civil disobedience, except to deal with emergencies, “until the defeat of the putschists.” The group had said earlier that military officers had prevented employees from the central blood bank from preparing blood for injured civilians.

The Forces of Freedom and Change, the coalition of former opposition groups that had been represented in government for the last two years, called for civil disobedience and mass protests after the military declared a state of emergency and dissolved the governing council.

The coalition was the main civilian group that spearheaded the demonstrations that ousted Omar Hassan al-Bashir from the presidency in 2019 after his three decades of autocratic rule. The group then entered into a power-sharing agreement with the military, led by the governing council, which was supposed to last until a transition to full civilian government and then free elections in 2022.

The group said civil disobedience would continue until all detained leaders were released and the military handed power back to the civilian government.

“We call on the steadfast masses to go out to the streets, in order to preserve their revolution,” the group said in a statement.

Thousands of people did take to the streets in opposition to the coup, but after several hours, the situation turned deadly. Soldiers in Khartoum reportedly fired on demonstrators, killing at least three and wounding more than 80.



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