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Iyad el-Baghdadi: In the ‘crosshairs’ of Saudi government | Jamal Khashoggi

Just a few months after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, another Arab dissident says his life is also in danger.

Iyad el-Baghdadi is a pro-democracy activist and strong critic of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported that Norwegian officials took him from his home in Oslo to a secure location.

There, he was told the CIA had warned Norway’s government the Saudis had him “in their crosshairs”.

El-Baghdadi gained popularity during the Arab Spring when he posted pro-human rights messages on social media.

The Palestinian activist was granted asylum in Norway four years ago after being expelled from the United Arab Emirates for criticising Middle Eastern regimes.

In a way when they come after you that’s when you know that you are being effective. You know that you hit a nerve, in other words.

Iyad el-Baghdadi, Human rights activist

In an exclusive interview, Iyad el-Baghdadi discusses an unlikely friendship with the murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and how continuing Khashoggi’s work has made him a target of the Saudi government.

El-Baghdadi says he began to feel under threat less than a month after Khashoggi’s death.

“On October 15th, I received a friendly tip from a Saudi source indicating that I am being discussed and that I should be concerned about my security,” el-Baghdadi said.

It was months later in February 2019, when he was working on an investigation into Saudi-led campaigns against Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and owner of the Washington Post, that he realised that he might be in danger, and filed a report with the Norwegian police.

“I started to understand how sensitive that matter is,” he said. “Revisiting a lot of my old sources … I don’t want to be too dramatic but I felt like I probably have crosshairs on my back.”

The Bezos investigation was part of his continuation of Khashoggi’s work, which he says also includes developing a state media watchdog that translates Arabic propaganda into English in order to expose governments and hold them accountable.

He says that he will continue his work despite the threats.

“In a way when they come after you that’s when you know that you are being effective. You know that you hit a nerve, in other words,” he said. “Knowing that you have a certain effectiveness that would prompt them to try to deter you and to stop you really is validation … and it’s basically a message saying that I need to double down my efforts.”

Source: Al Jazeera

Nepal climber scales Mount Everest for record 23rd time | Nepal News

A Nepalese Sherpa climber Kami Rita has scaled Mount Everest for a 23rd time, breaking his own record for the most successful ascents of the world’s highest peak.

Rita, a native of Thame village located in the shadow of Mount Everest, reached the 8,850-metre (29,035-feet) summit with other climbers via the Southeast Ridge route on Wednesday morning, tourism department official Mira Acharya said from the base camp.

His latest ascent took him two summits clear of two fellow Sherpas, who have successfully climbed the peak 21 times, hiking officials said.

Acharya said Rita, who goes by his first name Kami, reached the top at 7.50 am (0205 GMT) and is now descending to lower camps.

She said about 30 other climbers were on the way to the summit and were expected to top the peak on Wednesday or Thursday, when the weather window is expected to remain open.

Rita says he will try and climb the peak two more times.

“I am still strong and want to climb Sagarmatha 25 times,” Kami had told Reuters news agency before leaving for the mountain in March referring to the Nepali name for Everest.

‘Like a soldier’

Rita, 49, first scaled Everest in 1994 and has been making the trip nearly every year since, one of many Sherpa guides whose expertise and skills are vital to the safety and success of the hundreds of climbers who head to Nepal each year seeking to stand on top of the world.

His father was among the first Sherpa guides employed to help climbers reach the summit, and Rita followed in his footsteps and then some.

In addition to his nearly two dozen summits of Everest, Rita has scaled several other peaks that are among the world’s highest, including K-2, Cho-Oyu, Manaslu and Lhotse.

WATCH: Sherpa guides stage Everest base camp walkout

Rita was at Everest’s base camp in 2015 when an avalanche swept through, killing 19 people. After that tragedy, he came under intense family pressure to quit mountaineering altogether, but in the end decided against it.

“I know Mount Everest very well, having climbed it 22 times, but at the same time I know I may or may not come back,” he told The Associated Press last month.

“I am like a soldier who leaves behind their wives, children and family to battle for the pride of the country.”

Nearly 5,000 climbers have scaled the peak since the pioneering ascent, many multiple times.

The climbing season ends in May and hundreds of climbers are currently on Everest, trying to reach the top from both the Nepali and Tibetan sides of the mountain.

Tourism, which includes mountain climbing, is a main source of income for cash-strapped Nepal, home to eight of the world’s 14 highest mountains. 

Iran halts some commitments under 2015 nuclear deal | News

Iran has officially stopped some commitments under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers following an order from its national security council, ISNA news agency reported.

Last week, Iran notified China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom of its decision to halt some commitments under the nuclear deal, a year after the United States unilaterally withdrew from the accord and re-imposed sanctions.

Under the nuclear deal, Tehran was allowed to produce low-enriched uranium with a 300kg limit, and produce heavy water with a stock capped around 130 tonnes. 

Tehran could ship the excess amounts out of the country for storage or sale.

An official in the country’s atomic energy body told ISNA that Iran has no limit from now for production of enriched uranium and heavy water.

Iran’s initial moves do not appear to violate the nuclear deal yet. But Iran has warned that unless the world powers protect Iran’s economy from US sanctions within 60 days, Iran would start enriching uranium at higher level.

In a speech broadcast on national television on May 8, Rouhani said Iran wanted to negotiate new terms with remaining partners in the deal, but acknowledged the situation was dire.

“We felt that the nuclear deal needs a surgery and the painkiller pills of the last year have been ineffective,” Rouhani said. “This surgery is for saving the deal, not destroying it.”

The European Union and the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain said they were still committed to the deal but would not accept ultimatums from Tehran.

The deal also caps the level of purity to which Iran can enrich uranium at 3.67 percent, far below the 90 percent of weapons grade. It is also well below the 20 percent level to which Iran enriched uranium before the deal.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday that Tehran does not seek war with the US despite mounting tensions between the two nations.

“There won’t be any war. The Iranian nation has chosen the path of resistance,” he said. “Neither we nor them seek war. They know it will not be in their interest.” 

Khamenei also said Tehran would not negotiate with the US on another nuclear deal.

‘Orchestrating conflict’

On Tuesday, Iranian officials accused “hardliners” in the US and elsewhere of attempting to orchestrate an incident that would ratchet up tensions with Tehran.

Four ships – two Saudi, one Norwegian and one Emirati – were damaged on Sunday off the coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in what Emirati officials described as acts of sabotage near the port of Fujairah. 

The incident happened 140km south of the Strait of Hormuz, where about one-third of all oil traded by sea passes through.

“We … talked about the policies that hardliners in the US administration as well as in the region are attempting to impose,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif told Iranian state TV in India after a bilateral meeting with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj.

“We raised concerns over the suspicious activities and sabotage that are happening in our region. We had formerly anticipated that they would carry out these sorts of activities to escalate tension.”

Al Jazeera and news agencies

Alabama Senate approves near-total abortion ban | News

Alabama’s Republican-dominated state Senate has passed a bill to ban nearly all abortions, including in cases of rape or incest, as part of a multi-state effort to have the United States Supreme Court reconsider a woman’s constitutional right to the procedure.

Senators on Tuesday voted 25-6 for the bill that would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony punishable by up to 99 years or life in prison for the abortion provider. The only exception would be when the woman’s health is at serious risk.

The Senate also rejected an attempt to add an exception for rape and incest. The amendment was voted down 21-11, with four Republicans joining Democrats seeking the amendment.

“You don’t care anything about babies having babies in this state, being raped and incest,” Democratic Senator Bobby Singleton said after the amendment’s defeat. “You just aborted the state of Alabama with your rhetoric with this bill.”

The country’s strictest abortion bill was previously approved by the Alabama House of Representatives and will now go to Republican Governor Kay Ivey, who has withheld comment on whether she would sign but is generally a strong opponent of abortion.

The law would take effect six months after being signed by the governor, but is certain to face a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups which have vowed to sue.

“Opponents to the law have been very vociferous in their outcry, saying that this would punish rape victims and it would push women to seek abortions underground in unsafe procedures,” Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Washington, DC, said. 

Roe v Wade

Supporters said the bill is designed to conflict with the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision legalising abortion nationally because they hope to prompt a court case that might prompt the justices to revisit abortion rights.

“It’s to address the issue that Roe v Wade was decided on. Is that baby in the womb a person?” Republican Representative Terri Collins, the bill’s sponsor, said after the approval of the measures.

Supporters had argued that exemptions would weaken their hope of creating a vehicle to challenge Roe.

Collins said the Alabama law was not meant to be a long-term measure and legislators could add a rape exemption if states regained control of abortion access.

“Roe v Wade has ended the lives of millions of children. While we cannot undo the damage that decades of legal precedence under Roe have caused, this bill has the opportunity to save the lives of millions of unborn children,” Republican Senator Clyde Chambliss said in a statement after the bill’s passage.

Emboldened by conservative justices who have joined the Supreme Court, abortion opponents in several states are seeking to challenge abortion access. Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio and Georgia have approved bans on abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur in about the sixth week of pregnancy.

The Alabama bill goes further by seeking to outlaw abortion outright. There would be no punishment for the woman receiving the abortion, only for the abortion provider. The text of the bill likens abortion to history’s greatest atrocities, including the Holocaust.

‘Dark day’

Democrats, who hold eight seats in the 35-member Senate, criticised the ban as a mixture of political grandstanding, an attempt to control women and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“You don’t have to provide for that child. You don’t have to do anything for that child, yet you want to make that decision for that woman,” Democratic Senator Vivian Davis Figures said. “It should be that woman’s choice.”

During the debate, Senator Singleton pointed out and named rape victims watching from the Senate viewing gallery. He said that under the ban, doctors who perform abortions could serve more prison time than the women’s rapists.

In a statement, Staci Fox, CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said: “Today is a dark day for women in Alabama and across this country.”

The statement added: “Alabama politicians will forever live in infamy for this vote and we will make sure that every woman knows who to hold accountable.”

Outside the Statehouse, a crowd of about 50 people held a rally, chanting, “Whose choice? Our choice.”
Several women dressed as characters from The Handmaid’s Tale, which depicts a dystopian future where fertile women are forced to breed.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

Mexico City declares pollution alert over smoke from wildfires

Authorities tell residents to stay indoors as wildfires in southern Mexico and Central America burn.

PNG assesses damage from magnitude 7.5 earthquake | Papua New Guinea News

Authorities in Papua New Guinea have dispatched teams in the the Pacific island nation’s New Britain province to monitor remote communities for casualties and assess the extent of damage after a powerful, shallow earthquake rattled coastal towns.

The magnitude 7.5 offshore tremor struck around 50km east of the main city of Rabaul at a depth of around 10km just before 11pm on Tuesday (13:00 GMT), according to the United States Geological Survey.

It triggered an initial tsunami warning, though local officials said no waves were observed, nor any casualties reported yet but that they were seeking information on residents outside urban areas.

Don Tokunai, Disaster Management Office coordinator in Rabaul, said there was “no information as of yet” of any injuries or deaths.

“We are conducting the assessment starting this morning,” he told Reuters news agency by telephone. “We have asked all the district response teams to come back to us by 2 o’clock this afternoon (04:00 GMT).”

Garfield Tarabu, a spokesman at the National Disaster Centre, also told The Associated Press news agency that a disaster coordinator was on the ground assessing the situation but they had not yet gotten an update on the extent of the damage.

Police Sergeant Frank Kilaur described the tremor as “very strong”.

“[It] shook the whole place up,” he said by telephone from the police station. “At the moment we haven’t had any reports of damage … We are OK here.”

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said dangerous tsunami waves were possible within 1,000km of the quake’s epicentre along the coasts of Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, before later saying the threat had passed.

Tokunai said shortly after the tremor that villagers on islands closer to the epicentre and on the west coast of New Ireland reported the ocean receding, but no damaging waves or casualties.

“They said they just woke up and felt the shake, but that they are still OK there,” he said.

Papua New Guinea, one of the world’s poorest countries, sits on the geologically active Pacific Ring of Fire and is still rebuilding from a magnitude 7.5 quake that hit some 900km to the west early last year that killed at least 100 people.

Duterte allies beat opposition in key Philippines midterm vote | Philippines News

Manila, Philippines – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte appears to have scored a victory in a national election of legislators and local executives, with his allies poised to win most of 12 contested Senate seats in a midterm vote regarded as a referendum on his controversial administration.

The newly elected senators are likely to push Duterte’s agenda and protect him from legislative inquiry, boosting his already favourable numbers in the 24-seat higher chamber of the Philippines Congress.

An unofficial tally of results based on parallel transmissions from official precinct ballot scanners indicates that nine pro-administration candidates won Monday’s vote, along with three candidates who ran independently of both the administration and the opposition.

The opposition’s eight candidates have just about conceded defeat but are holding out for one possible spot for Bam Aquino, who ranked 14th with more than 95 percent of votes unofficially counted.

The vote affirmed public confidence in Duterte’s three-year-old administration characterised which has been characterised by a brutal approach to law and order and rhetoric that strikes a chord among Filipinos disillusioned with past administrations that have mostly failed to lift the masses from poverty.

The opposition and Duterte’s critics had hoped to gain more representation in the Senate to increase its ability to keep the president in check and seek accountability for human rights abuses in his “war on drugs”.

Another goal was to block his proposal to redraft the constitution to shift the country towards a federal government – a move that may allow Duterte and other politicians to stay in power indefinitely.

China also figured heavily as an election issue, with the opposition accusing Duterte of “selling out” to Beijing with a spree of big-ticket loan agreements while neglecting to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty claim over parts of the South China Sea.

Whereas there used to be six opposition voices in the Senate, this recomposition leaves it with only four, including Senator Leila De Lima who has been in jail on spurious drug trafficking charges ever since she ran a probe into Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

The winners

The pro-administration candidates poised to win Senate seats include Cynthia Villar, Villar, who was the wealthiest Filipino senator in 2017 with a net worth of about $69m; Ronald Dela Rosa, a national police chief who operated Duterte’s “war on drugs” during the early part of his presidency; and Bong Go, Duterte’s longtime personal aide who was “Special Assistant to the President” before he ran for senator. Duterte once called him a “billionaire businessman”.

Duterte faced criticism for supporting some candidates who have themselves or their families been accused of corruption, contrary to his platform of cracking down on corrupt officials.

The opposition also questioned his choice of Imee Marcos – the daughter of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who embezzled at least billions of dollars when he ruled from 1965 to 1986 – and Bong Revilla, who was recently acquitted of plunder but owes the national treasury the equivalent of $2.3m in missing congressional funds that he still could not account for.

Both Marcos and Revilla are expected to win Senate seats.

‘Alter egos of the president’

Critics also said Duterte picked his candidates primarily for their loyalty to him and not whether they would make suitable legislators.

Once, when asked by reporters for comment on the Philippines’ inflation rate, Dela Rosa said he had little knowledge about the economy, and that as senator he would rather focus on law and order.

Defending the anti-drug campaign during a political rally in the capital, Manila, Go said he was willing to go to jail with Duterte for it.

“That is how much I love the president,” Go reportedly told the crowd, adding that as senator he would support Duterte’s programme and legislative agenda.

Although the other pro-administration candidates were not as explicit about their devotion or loyalty to Duterte, they are not known to have publicly criticised him or his policies.

Analyst Jose Antonio Custodio, of the Manila-based Institute for Policy, Strategy and Development Studies, called the victory of the pro-administration candidates a “deluge of misfits and subpar legislators whose loyalty is to Duterte and not to the institution and the republic”.

Richard Heydarian, an analyst and author of The Rise of Duterte: A Populist Revolt Against Elite Democracy, said the entry into the Senate of personalities such as Go and Dela Rosa, and even of boxing champion Manny Pacquiao in 2016, showed a “democratisation” of Filipinos’ understanding of who qualifies as a senator.

“The idea that you need to be a lawyer or have a high level of familiarity with legislation to qualify as a senator is out the window,” Heydarian told Al Jazeera.

“What I am concerned about, more than their qualifications, is that they are fundamentally alter egos of the president. Will they be able to fulfill their oversight function and respect the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative?”

Custodio said that “the new Senate will practically follow the general direction of Duterte’s legislative agenda”, but added that the remaining opposition and non-administration senators could be expected to take a critical stand on certain issues.

Although generally supportive of Duterte, the current Senate has tempered some of his more contentious programmes such as constitutional amendment or his attempt at reinstating the death penalty.

A few hitches

Some 61 million Filipinos were registered to vote in Monday’s polls. The Commission on Elections has yet to announce how many actually voted, but it said it expected a voter turnout of at least 75 percent.

Problems with electronic ballot scanning machines and their memory cards interrupted voting in several hundred poll precincts, but voting went on smoothly in more than 85,000 precincts across the country of 7,000-plus islands.

A few hours after polls closed on Monday evening, an interruption in the electronic transmission of results to a secondary server monitored by poll watchdogs and the news media raised suspicions of irregularity and fraud. The electoral commission dismissed it as a mere technical difficulty when it was resolved several hours later.

The commission said they will investigate the glitches, but all in all the election was “generally successful”.

The winners will be officially declared in the coming weeks.

Amnesty urges ICC to probe ‘crimes against humanity’ in Venezuela | News

Amnesty International said on Tuesday it believes the Venezuelan authorities have committed crimes against humanity in their crackdown on anti-government protests, and urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate.

The rights group said President Nicolas Maduro’s government responded with “a systematic and widespread policy of repression” in late January, when anti-government protests swept the country after opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution to declare himself interim president, declaring Maduro’s 2018 re-election illegitimate. 

Maduro opponents were tortured and killed during the protests, Amnesty said.

“The nature of the attacks … the level of coordination by the security forces, as well as the signs of similar patterns in 2014 and 2017, leads Amnesty International to believe that the Venezuelan authorities committed crimes against humanity,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Guaido is locked in a bitter power struggle with Maduro, who maintains the support of Russia, China and Turkey, as well as most of the country’s institutions, including the military. He accuses Guaido and the United States of attempting a coup.

Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature, declared himself acting president on January 23. The opposition leader has since been recognised by more than 50 countries, led by the US.

Amnesty sent a fact-finding mission to Venezuela in February to research the crackdown on the anti-government protests that preceded and followed Guaido’s swearing-in.

Torture, executions

The London-based rights group said at least 47 people were killed during the protests from January 21 to 25. At least 33 were shot dead by the security forces, and six by government supporters.

“Eleven of these deaths were extrajudicial executions,” said Erika Guevara, Americas director for Amnesty International, who presented the report in Mexico City.

“State forces identified people who had been prominent in the protests in their communities, located them and shortly afterwards killed them … Some of them were tortured before they were killed,” the report said.

More than 900 people, including children, were arbitrarily detained over the same period, it said.

It called on the UN Human Rights Council and ICC to investigate.

Amnesty’s team found that crimes and human rights violations were committed in “an attack planned and led by the security forces against individuals identified as or perceived to be opponents, particularly in impoverished areas.” 

Maduro himself “knew about these public and appalling acts and took no measures to either prevent or investigate them,” it said.

Maduro’s government has not responded to the allegations. 

Millions of Venezuelans have fled Venezuela in recent years as the country experiences hyperinflation, unemployment and food and medicine shortages. 

Security forces block opposition politicians

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Venezuelan security forces prevented opposition politicians from entering the parliament building for a session on Tuesday, a week after the top court stripped several politicians of their immunity.

Members of the Sebin intelligence service, wearing masks and carrying long guns, together with members of the national police and the military blocked the entrance and were investigating the possible presence of an explosive device inside the National Assembly building, politicians said.

Last week, one opposition politician was arrested and several took refuge in foreign embassies in Caracas or fled the country

“This is all part of a show to prevent the National Assembly from functioning,” politician Juan Pablo Guanipa told Reuters News Agency. “This is a dictatorship that goes after dissidents, and we are fighting for a political change.” 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Tribunal accused four opposition legislators of treason and conspiracy, according to a statement posted on the court’s Facebook page, following similar earlier accusations against 10 opposition politicians. 

The moves come after opposition politicians participated in demonstrations that were part of a failed uprising led by Guaido on April 30. 

Venezuela’s information ministry, which handles media inquiries on behalf of the government, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The government stripped the assembly of most of its powers after the opposition won a majority in 2015 elections. Politicians loyal to Maduro generally do not attend the sessions, but go to meetings of the constituent assembly, a legislative “superbody” created in 2017 that meets in the same building on Wednesdays.

Tuesday’s session was scheduled for 10am (14:00GMT), but never began. The politicians were set to discuss the Supreme Tribunal’s stripping of several of their colleagues’ parliamentary immunity and the arrest of Edgar Zambrano, the National Assembly’s vice president and an outspoken critic of Maduro.

Opposition politician Jorge Millan told reporters the report of “bombs” in the building was false.

“It is a trick to prevent the parliament from functioning today,” he said. “If we do not have a session today, we will do it tomorrow.”

France’s Macron wants to meet Libya’s Haftar to push ceasefire | News

France’s President Emmanuel Macron wants to meet Libya’s renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar to push for a ceasefire and resume peace talks.

Macron last week called for a truce in the month-long battle for Libya’s capital Tripoli after meeting UN-recognised Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

Tripoli is home to the recognised administration but some European countries, such as France, have also supported the eastern commander Haftar as a way to fight armed groups in a country in chaos since the NATO-backed toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

A day after meeting Macron, the internationally recognised government asked 40 foreign firms, including French oil major Total, to renew their licences or have their operations suspended.

“The situation in Libya is extremely worrying because the proposed UN roadmap to both parties – and which almost reached a positive conclusion – has today failed on the one hand because of Field Marshal Haftar’s initiative and Sarraj’s non-initiative,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told legislators.

“It’s for this reason that the president wanted to meet one and the other to support the UN initiative.”

The French presidency said there was no meeting planned at this stage.

Haftar and his Libyan National Army (LNA) have struggled to maintain momentum in the advance on Tripoli, faced with a counter-offensive by troops aligned with Sarraj’s Government of National Accord (GNA).

The GNA has previously rejected any ceasefire unless Haftar pulls his troops back to the areas they held before the April 4, in the south and east of the country.

The weeks of fighting have killed more than 430 people and wounded at least 2,110 others, while displacing more than 55,000, the World Health Organization said. 

Sudan opposition urges independent probe into protester killings | News

Sudan’s opposition alliance blamed the ruling military council for renewed deadly street violence, demanding an independent investigation into the attacks that complicated efforts to negotiate a handover to civilian power.

At least four people died and dozens were injured during protests in a square outside military headquarters late on Monday as the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and opposition Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) said they had reached a partial agreement for transition.

Monday’s victims included a military police officer and three demonstrators, state TV said. An opposition-linked doctors’ committee revised its death toll from six to four, citing a mix-up in counting the bodies of victims, the Reuters News Agency reported.

Gunfire rang out in the capital into the night after paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) – whose head is deputy of the military council – had patrolled the streets using tear gas and guns to disrupt demonstrations.

“The bullets that were fired yesterday were Rapid Support Forces bullets and we hold the military council responsible for what happened yesterday,” Khalid Omar Youssef, a senior figure in the DFCF, told a news conference.

“While they claimed that a third party was the one who did so, eyewitnesses confirmed that the party was in armed forces vehicles and in armed forces uniforms, so the military council must reveal this party.”

Demonstrators continued to block roads and bridges on Tuesday.

Call for independent probe

Protest leaders demand an independent investigation into Monday’s incidents, a call that has not received a response from the TMC yet.

“Many people believe that it will be very unlikely for the military to sign off such an investigation,” Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow said from Khartoum.

“The military insists that the incidents were the work of, who they call, armed infiltrators who got access to the square. They say those are the ones who shot people. However, protest leaders deny this claim.”

Monday’s fatalities were the first in protests in several weeks after months of demonstrations that led to army’s overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir last month.

The opposition and TMC were meeting again on Tuesday to discuss two sticking points: the military-civilian balance of power in transitional bodies, and the timeframe for elections.

Talks would wrap up on Wednesday, DFCF’s Youssef said.

The United States backed the opposition alliance in pinning the blame for Monday’s chaos on the military for trying to remove roadblocks set up by protesters.

“The decision by security forces to escalate the use of force, including the unnecessary use of tear gas, led directly to the unacceptable violence later in the day that the TMC was unable to control,” said the US embassy in Khartoum.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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