United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned a Monday attack by Sudanese security forces that broke up a protest site in Khartoum and killed or wounded dozens of people.
"He condemns the use of force to disperse the protesters at the sit-in site, and he is alarmed by reports that security forces have opened fire inside medical facilities," said a spokesman for Guterres at the United Nations in New York. "The Secretary-General reminds [Sudan's] Transitional Military Council of its responsibility for the safety and security of the citizens of Sudan. He urges all parties to act with utmost restraint."
Explosions and heavy machine gunfire were heard as security forces stormed a site outside the Defense Ministry where demonstrators had maintained a protest for the past eight weeks, demanding the military hand power over to a civilian authority.
Witnesses say that by mid-afternoon, the area had been cleared.
The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, which is close to Sudan's protest movement, now says the death toll stands at 30 with many more injured.
In remarks from the spokesman, Guterres also called for unimpeded access for first responders at the sit-in site and in hospitals where the wounded are treated, and called on Sudanese authorities to conduct an independent investigation and hold people accountable for the deaths.
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also condemned the attack and urged the security forces to stop immediately.
"Those exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression must be protected, not targeted or detained," Bachelet said in a statement. "This is a fundamental tenet of international human rights law."
The U.S. embassy in Khartoum tweeted that the attacks on protesters "must stop."
The British embassy condemned the attack and called it an "outrageous step that will only lead to more polarization and violence."
The sit-in began in April as civilians and military officials argued over the makeup of a transitional government, following the military overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in April, after mass protests against his 30-year rule.
With batons in hand, Sudanese forces dressed in police and military uniforms surrounded protesters near the military headquarters and began forcing the demonstrators to leave. Video on several media outlets shows Sudanese forces beating protesters lying face down on the ground.
Protesters say rapid response forces and paramilitary units surrounded two Khartoum hospitals.
The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces — a coalition of political parties leading the protest — issued a statement calling on all demonstrators to continue with"the revolution."Protesters later blocked roads leading into and out of Khartoum.
Protest organizers have suspended further talks with the Transitional Military Council and called for civil disobedience across the country until the military hands over power to civilians.
The organizers also say in the statement that security forces who killed protesters must be brought to justice.
Media reports quote Transitional Military Council spokesman Shams El din Al Kabashi as saying the forces only targeted what he called "dangerous groups" that infiltrated the protesters in the sit-in area.
Kabashi says he believes that a return to negotiations is the quickest way to resolve the problem.