Ibrahim al-Senoussi, a former aide to ousted President Omar al-Bashir, right, speaks at a press conference a day after a meeting of the Popular Congress Party, an Islamist party close to al-Bashir, was attacked by protesters, in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, April 28, 2019. The leader of the party says 64 members were wounded in clashes. (AP Photo)

Sudan's military rulers condemn attack on Islamist party

April 28, 2019 - 2:54 pm

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudanese protest leaders held talks with the ruling military council on Sunday after the military condemned an attack on an Islamist party close to President Omar al-Bashir, who was removed from power and jailed earlier this month.

Dozens of protesters on Saturday surrounded a building where the Popular Congress Party was holding a meeting, chanting: "No place for Islamists."

The state-run SUNA news agency quoted party leader Idriss Suliman as saying that protesters attacked the party members as they left the building, wounding at least 64 people.

The party was established in the late 1990s by Hassan al-Turabi, the Sudanese Islamist who played a key role in the 1989 coup that brought al-Bashir to power. It is a symbol of the lingering power of al-Bashir's regime, which was built on a close alliance between the military and Islamists.

The deputy head of the military council, Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo — commonly known by his nickname Hemedti — accused the demonstrators of trying to set the building on fire. Security forces intervened to separate the two groups, he added, to avoid "a disaster."

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which spearheaded four months of overwhelmingly peaceful protests, condemned the violence.

Protest leaders demanding a speedy transition to civilian rule are now locked in a standoff with the military, which removed al-Bashir from office April 11 under pressure from the popular uprising. A military council has said it will rule the country for up to two years until elections can be organized.

The Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change, a coalition of opposition groups led by the SPA, is pushing for a transitional council that would include only limited army representation. The protesters fear that the military will cling to power or cut a deal with other parties to leave much of al-Bashir's regime intact.

The military has said it is open to "proportional" civilian representation in its council and the granting of executive powers to civilians. It has said it is consulting with all political factions except for al-Bashir's National Congress Party on the way forward.

Amjad Fareed, an SPA spokesman, said late Saturday the talks have focused on "the nature of the council, whether it is going to be a civilian council with some military representation or just military like the military council insists on. And how long is the transition process."

Two activists within the SPA said both sides have reached an "initial deal" to share power in the transitional council. They said Sunday's talks would focus on apportioning representation between the two sides. Both activists spoke on condition of anonymity as the talks are ongoing.

After Saturday's meeting, sources said that an agreement was reached in principle to form a joint civilian-military council, but not on the division of seats in the new body, with the military apparently insisting on a majority of seats.

The protesters suspended talks with the military a week ago but resumed the negotiations on Wednesday as three officials seen as too close to al-Bashir resigned from the military council.

Speaking late Sunday at a news conference, Ali al-Haj Mohammed, the head of the formerly pro-Bashir Popular Congress Party, urged the military council not to yield to pressure. He said his party would oppose any "bilateral deal," apparently referring to the talks between military and protest leaders.

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