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US is 'prepared to respond' to Sudan's deadly crackdown on anti-coup protests, says Blinken

Sudan's security forces have injured hundreds and killed at least four protesters in recent days as they continue attempts to suppress mass pro-democracy protests across Sudan
Sudanese demonstrators take to the streets of the capital Khartoum as tens of thousands protest against the army's 25 October coup, on 30 December 2021 (AFP/File photo)

The United States is "prepared to respond" to Sudan's deadly crackdown against pro-democracy demonstrators, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned. 

Blinken, in a statement on Saturday commemorating Sudan's 66th year of independence, said the Sudanese military's recent power grab has threatened Washington's plans to establish stronger ties with the North African country. 

"We had hoped 2021 would offer the opportunity to partner with a democratizing Sudan, but the military’s seizure of power in October and violence against peaceful protesters have cast doubt on that future," Blinken said. 

'We are prepared to respond to those who seek to block the aspirations of the Sudanese people'

- Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State

The secretary called on authorities to support the will of demonstrators and to recommit to working towards a democratic future for Sudan. 

"We do not want to return to the past, and are prepared to respond to those who seek to block the aspirations of the Sudanese people for a civilian-led, democratic government and who would stand in the way of accountability, justice, and peace," Blinken said. 

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US-Sudanese relations had been on the mend, after decades of cut ties during former President Omar al-Bashir's nearly 30-year dictatorship. 

A newly established transitional government vowed to work towards democracy after Bashir was ousted in 2019. Washington agreed to remove Sudan from its State Sponsors of Terrorism (SST) list the following year and lifted a series of crippling sanctions. 

But things quickly took a turn, as Sudan's army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, seized power on 25 October, ousting the military-civilian transitional government and arresting Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok. Burhan released Hamdok from house arrest on 21 November, reinstating him as part of a deal between the military and civilian leadership.

The move did not quell the mass anti-military protests that had sparked across the country, however, as protesters continue to denounce the takeover as well as Hamdok's new agreement

'There is a way forward'

Earlier this week, sources told Middle East Eye that Hamdok was planning to withdraw from the power-sharing deal with the army and quit his post, as Sudanses forces continue to violently suppress anti-coup protesters. 

At least 178 protesters were wounded earlier on Saturday, as security forces fired tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at them, the Central Doctors Committee said. On Thursday, security forces fatally shot four protesters in the city of Omdurman. 

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In Saturday's statement the State Department called on security forces "to immediately cease the use of deadly force against protesters and to take action to hold accountable those responsible for human rights violations". 

"There is a way forward," Blinken said. "It requires Sudan’s leaders to make rapid progress on forming a credible cabinet, establishing a legislative assembly, forming judicial and electoral bodies, and transferring leadership of the Sovereign Council'.

The US has, since the start of the coup, called on its allies with close ties to Sudan's military - such as Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - to help push for an end to the takeover and a return to a civilian-led political process.

Saturday's warning is the latest in a series of US statements against the military coup. Days after Burhan's power grab US envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman denounced the army chief and his supporters, saying they had "hijacked and betrayed" the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people.

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