Doctors in Sudan say the number of people killed since security forces stormed a protest camp in the capital has jumped to at least 60, as European countries condemned the violent crackdown against the pro-democracy protesters but the United Nations Security Council failed to reach a joint position.
Security forces fired live ammunition at dawn on Monday as they wiped out the sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum that had for weeks become the protesters’ main rallying point in their long struggle for civilian rule.
The opposition-linked Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said on Wednesday that the death toll since the operation had risen from 35 to at least 60 people, with hundreds of others wounded.
Army ruler Abdel Fattah al-Burhan on Tuesday apologised for the violence and said the ruling Transitional Military Council, (TMC), which seized power in April after overthrowing long-time authoritarian leader Omar al-Bashir in the wake of months-long mass protests, would launch an investigation.
Al-Burhan also said that he was scrapping a plan for a three-year transition period and would hold elections within nine months – a plan rejected by the opposition.
“We consider it a statement of a coup and a counter-attack on the people’s revolution,” Omar al-Dukair, the head of the Sudanese Congress Party, told reporters. “We refute it all, from its beginning to the end. We refuse the call for an early election and we consider the statement of the military council conforms with the counter-revolution and is linked to the interests of the old regime.”
After bloody attack, Sudan army scraps agreements with protesters (2:42)
China, Russia block statement
Separately, the UN’s Security Council met on Tuesday at the request of Britain and Germany to hear a briefing from UN envoy Nicholas Haysom, who has been working with the African Union (AU) on a solution to the crisis in Sudan.
But China, backed by Russia, blocked a bid to condemn the killing of civilians and issue a pressing call from world powers for an immediate halt to the violence, according to diplomats.
During the closed-door session, Britain and Germany circulated a press statement that would have called on the TMC and protesters to “continue working together towards a consensual solution to the current crisis”, according to a draft seen by reporters.
But China strongly objected to draft while Russia insisted that the council should await a response from the AU, diplomats said.
“I am told that China adamantly refused the draft statements saying it was an internal matter,” Al Jazeera’s diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York, said. “They were backed in that by Russia and Kuwait said the draft needed amendments,” he added.
Russian Deputy Ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy said the proposed statement was “unbalanced” and stressed the need to be “very cautious in this situation.”
“We don’t want to promote an unbalanced statement. It could just spoil the situation,” Polyanskiy told reporters after the two-hour meeting.
British ambassador to Sudan: Military government a ‘security threat’ (5:48)
After the council failed to agree on a common position, eight European countries said in joint statement that they “condemn the violent attacks in Sudan by Sudanese security services against civilians”.
Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, The Netherlands and Sweden said the TMC’s “unilateral announcement to cease negotiations, appoint a government and call for elections within a too short period of time is of great concern”.
The European statement added: “We call for an agreed transfer of power to a civilian-led government as demanded by the people of Sudan.
For his part, Haysom, the UN envoy, told reporters: “I don’t want to engage too much in a discussion of who should do what because we are still hoping to play a role in bringing the parties together, we haven’t given up hope that a solution is still possible.”
‘We will continue this revolution’
Diplomats looked to a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council on Wednesday to provide a response to the crisis, while others said the Security Council could revisit the issue and try to agree on a common stance.
“We need urgently a return to the negotiating table,” German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said before the meeting. “Legitimacy cannot come from the barrel of a gun.”
INSIDE STORY: Are hopes fading for democracy in Sudan? (24:46)
Negotiations between the TMC and protest leaders broke down recently over disagreements on whether a planned transitional body would be headed by a civilian or a military figure.
The bloody dispersal of the sit-in poses a new challenge to the popular protest movement, but organisers vowed to keep up pressure in the streets.
“Next week, we’ll begin our civil disobedience,” Mohamed Nagy Alassam, of the Declaration of Freedom and Changes Forces protest group, said.
“The military council has cut off the internet, they cut off the telecommunication networks to cover their crimes. We promise we will unveil the military’s ugly crimes committed on the streets – from killing to rape to humiliation to fear. We will continue this revolution.”