Violence against protesters in Omdurman on June 30

Violence against protesters in Omdurman on June 30

Mon Aug 19 2019
8 dead, more than 50 injured as a result of violence against protesters in Omdurman on June 30, 2019

  • Location: Omdurman
  • Date: 30 June 2019
  • Reported killed: 8
  • Reported injured: 50+
  • Potentially responsible: Transitional Military Council (TMC)

This is an investigation produced by the Sudanese Archive in collaboration with the Berkeley Human Rights Investigation Lab. It uses open-source tools and techniques to verify evidence gathered from videos, images, and/or reports published online. The focus of this report is about violence against protesters in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on June 30, 2019.

Introduction

Protests in Sudan have continued for months as people fight for a civilian-led government. They have claimed the lives of hundreds. In April, after months of protests and a large-scale sit-in held outside the military headquarters, former president Omar Al-Bashir was ousted from power. In his place, a military-led transitional council has taken power. Protesters continued their sit-ins and marches, calling for a civilian-led transitional government. During this period, the leaders of the protests engaged in lengthy negotiations to reach an agreement with the Transitional Military Council (TMC). Talks broke down on May 15, 2019.

On June 3, 2019, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF and other security forces used violence to break up the sit-in and other marches. The attack left more than 100dead, according to the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors (CCSD) and dozens are still missing. Following this attack, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a key organizing group of the protests, and activists tried to regroup and plan a response.

According to Netblocks, mobile connectivity was severely interrupted following June 3rd. In a press conference, the TMC spokesperson admitted that the council ordered the internet block for security reasons. The internet block hindered communication between the SPA and the general public. Furthermore, it disrupted the SPA connection with neighborhood committee leaders and activists. This increased a general sense of fear, as the news was not circulating as easily as previously.

A chart showing internet access in Sudan - Source

Over the next three weeks, the SPA worked toward restoring demonstrations and reorganizing activists on the ground with the help of grassroots resistance committees through what they called the “Revolutionary Escalation Schedule”. Their efforts included announcing night demonstration schedules and conducting awareness sessions in neighborhoods and villages across Sudan.

A flyer advertising the 30 June march featuring the logos of the SPA and the Resistance Committee of Haj-Yousif

Source: SPA FB page

SPA tweets detailing the “Revolutionary Escalation Schedule”

As organizers called for more protests, there were reports that the RSF was targeting civilians, mainly activists, through arrests and violence. Mohammed Naji al-Asam, an SPA leader, said in an NPR interview on June 14, 2019, that the organizers feared for their lives and those of other activists. He said that they had received threats of harm or assassination through multiple channels. The detailed interview can be found here.

Night protests and SPA public meetings, along with a general feeling of frustration toward what happened on June 3rd, led to increasing calls for a large march on June 30 - the day that the Al-Bashir coup took place 30 years ago.

What Happened?

On June 30 2019, protesters assembled across Sudan. Twenty-eight cities across Sudan witnessed major protests. Our investigation team verified reports of violence in 9 major cities. The CCSD put the total death toll at nine, in addition to more than 148 injuries.

The city of Omdurman, one of the three cities compromising Khartoum the capital, sits across the river from Khartoum, about 8 kilometers from where the sit-in was held. It witnessed a number of major protests since the start of the uprising in December 2018. Districts such as Ombada Al- Abasiya, Abu-Rof, Wad-Nubawi, and Al-Muhandseen were particularly the scene of large assembly of crowds calling for regime change.

Marches across the city however were met with severe level of repression. This includes an incident in which government security forces attacked medical staff and injured protesters inside Omdurman’s main hospital on 9 January, 2019. In the same month of January, thousands gathered to march towards the national parliament in Omdurman demanding the former president Al-Bashier step down. The rally turned out to be a turning point in the popular uprising. Since then, anti-government rallies gained momentum leading up to June 30 when a huge number of protesters started marching across the city to demand civilian rule. In Omdurman, the CCSD reported that at least four people were killed, and more than 50 injured, primarily from gunfire.

The ‘One million’ March

Satellite image of the location of the Omdurman protests and the former sit-in site in Khartoum

According to the schedule posted by SPA a few days before, protestors in different cities in Sudan were to gather at specific points at 13:00, and march to the homes of some selected victims who were killed during the revolution. One of the aims of the protest, called the ‘One Million March,’ was to pay tribute in their memories and support their grieving families. The SPA announced a plan specifying venues of assembly and routes leading to four major areas of the greater capital Khartoum (Khartoum, Bahry, Omdurman and Sharq-Al Neel). As for Omdurman, five assembly points and routes were identified for protesters, according to the following post.

Instead of visiting victims’ homes as announced in the original plan, protesters from these points and other locations in Khartoum instead moved towards the Presidential Palace, a destination of earlier marches during the course of the uprising. Protesters in Omdurman meanwhile, marched toward the White Nile Bridge, which leads to the other part of the capital Khartoum where the Presidential Palace is located. Below is the geolocation.

One video shows protesters marching along Al Morada Street, between the Palace of Youth and Culture and the National Parliament of Sudan, at the edge of the White Nile bridge. It was posted at 7:47 PM Sudan time on June 30.

Screenshot of posted video showing protesters on al Morada Street, posted on Sunday, June 30, at 7:47 PM Sudan time. (Screenshot shows San Francisco time, which was then converted.)

Satellite imagery close-up of key locations in which protests and violence took place in Omdurman on June 30, 2019.

As protesters approached the White Nile Bridge, they were blocked from crossing. Another video posted July 1, of the same intersection and view of the bridge, shows protesters marching toward the bridge and clustering at the entrance.

Markers identified in a screenshot of a verified video match the location of the ‘One Million March’ in Omdurman on June 30.

Around 6 minutes into the video, three green vehicles and two white pick-up trucks drive forward through the crowds toward the bridge. Within less than a minute, the sound of tear gas canisters launching or gunfire can be heard in the video. Another green vehicle drives forward as the protesters begin to disperse, with many running away from the crowd in different directions. By 7:30 in the video, protesters are flooding away from the bridge. By 9 minutes into the video, protesters have been cleared from the bridge, and the sounds of tear gas and gunfire continue. Protesters carry away one injured person. By about 10 minutes into the video, there are no more sounds of tear gas or gunfire, and protesters mill about the area while at least 12 more vehicles drive toward the bridge. A few more people appearing to be injured are helped away in the direction of the military hospital.

An analysis of shadows in this video by the Sudanese Archive using the shadow calculator tool indicates that the video was likely taken around 3:30 p.m., and the weather matches that of June 30.

Screenshot from SunCalc tool showing the shadow on June 30th at 03:30 pm Khartoum Time

This video also corresponds to other accounts of the timeline of protests and violence in Omdurman on June 30, including those reported in this video . That video shows that around 2 PM, RSF vehicles drove along Al Arbaeen Street around 2:50 PM the march reached the end of Al Morada Street where it was blocked by RSF, and at 3:30 PM protesters reached the bridge but were blocked from crossing by RSF. The video says protesters stood there for about 15 minutes before it shows a video clip of protesters fleeing amid sounds of tear gas and gunfire.

Another video shot from directly alongside White Nile Bridge shows protesters fleeing amid the sounds of gunfire, taking shelter behind trees and jumping over fences to get off the road.

Screenshots from a video matching the location of White Nile Bridge along Al Morada Street, where protesters had gathered on June 30.

A video posted on June 30 at 9:33 PM shows protesters fleeing tear gas on Al Morada Street, in the direction of the Military Hospital.

Screenshots of a video likely filmed from in front of the Palace of Youth and Children (PYC), showing protesters fleeing from tear gas also match the verified protest location in front of the White Nile Bridge.

Another video shows protesters running from the tear gas in the same location.

Screenshot of a video liked filmed on Al Morada Street, showing protesters fleeing from tear gas also match the satellite imagery of the protest location in front of the White Nile Bridge.

Additional videos and photos posted online also showed armed RSF officers on top of the Palace of Youth and Children (PYC). During a news conference, the deputy head of the TMC Muhammad Hamdan Daglu, also known as Hemedti, said that there were snipers on the rooftop of the PYC and that three RSF members, as well as about five or six civilians were shot. He said the shooting was taking place as he was addressing a public gathering at Sharq al-Neel district in eastern Khartoum. The video of his comments was uploaded on June 30 at 4:35 PM according to an Amnesty International video verification tool.

A screenshot of a tool used to verify the time of upload of a video in which Hemedti made public comments

In one Tweet published a few days after the June 30 incident, the poster shared a video with a post referring to “Janjaweed snipers” in the palace building next to the AL-Silah al-Tibi Hospital in Omdurman on June 30th.

When did it happen?

Social media posts, news networks and activist pages started reporting the protests on June 30 around 1 pm. Reports of violence in Omdurman began surfacing around 3:30 pm as protesters attempted to cross the White Nile bridge.

To verify the time and location of the published videos and images, Sudanese Archive conducted an analysis of the weather and shadows in identified media. The weather search was conducted using the WolframAlpha tool for weather patterns on June 30, 2019. The weather specified by the tool is consistent with the weather in videos and photos posted via social media related to the incident, reinforcing what has been reported. Below is a screenshot of the WolframAlpha analysis:

Where did it happen?

Geolocating and landmarks

To determine the exact targeted location, Sudanese Archive identified the landmarks in the incident-related visual documentation and matched them with satellite images taken of the area.

In several of the verified videos those landmarks included the National Parliament of Sudan, billboards and a road divider.

A screenshot of a video showing the protests, with the National Parliament of Sudan (pink), large billboards (green), and a road divider (blue).

Satellite imagery of Omdurman, with locations of the National Parliament of Sudan (pink), large billboards (green), and a road divider (blue).

Other landmarks include more billboards, the entrance of the White Nile Bridge, and the Corinthia Hotel across the river in Khartoum.

A screenshot of a video showing the protests, with billboards (yellow), the entrance of the White Nile Bridge (red), and the Corinthia Hotel (orange).

Satellite imagery indicating the location of the billboards (yellow) and the entrance of the White Nile Bridge (red).

Image of the Corinthia Hotel in Khartoum.

Satellite imagery showing the location of the Corinthia Hotel in Khartoum.

Satellite imagery showing the location of the Corinthia hotel compared with the Omdurman protest site.

Deaths and injuries caused during the violence

A: First reports

The first field update from the CCSD stated the following about the attacks in the city of Omdurman

  • An injury with a gunshot in the head. Unstable condition admitted in ICU.

  • Three (3) cases with a gunshot in the abdomen wounds and a case with head injury with tear gas canister are undergoing surgeries at the time of this report.

  • Forty (40) wounded at El Selah El Tabi hospital, some of them are critical and required urgent surgical intervention.”

This was soon followed by a statement from Sudan’s Doctors Syndicate which said four civilians were shot dead in Omdurman. A report released shortly after by the CCSD named the following victims:

1- Dr. Mamoun Bashir El Tayeb. A 50 year old;

2- Mohammed Osman Issac in his twenties;

3- Daffa’ Allah El Daw;

4- A young unidentified male

The statement from the Sudan’s Doctors Syndicate also identified another victim:

5- Abdelraheem

B: Khor Abu Anga victims

In the early hours of July 1st, three bodies were found next to Khor (creek) Abu Anga in the city of Omdurman. According to a CCSD report, the bodies were taken to Omdurman Hospital Morgue and two of the victims were identified. All three showed signs of torture and gunshot wounds. Initial posts by the CCSD did not explicitly link the bodies to the protest. Sudanese Archive contacted a source close to the protesters who said that the three bodies found indeed were of June 30th Omdurman protesters.

The reported victims were: 1- Mohammed Abdelrahman Adam, 19 years old from the neighborhood of Al Jumueia 2- Hamid Omer Yousif, 23 years old from Dar Al Salam, Omdurman 3- An unidentified young man

According to a report by the Sudan Doctors’ Syndicate, the three victims were targeted as leaders of protests because Sudanese flags, microphones and a large banner that called for the million march and for justice were found next to their bodies.

C: The Story of Zaki Magdi Zaki

Zaki Magdi Zaki, a 25 year old man, left his home on June 30th to participate in the million march in the city of Omdurman, according an interview his family gave to Al Sudani newspaper. He never came home. In the interview, the family says they searched for him at police stations, hospitals, morgues for days… but he was never found.

Twelve days later, on July 12, his body was identified in the morgue of the Omdurman Hospital, according to a report by the CCSD. He had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. The report also expressed apologies by the CCSD, saying “CCSD’s field office provided the information in time. However, administrative circumstances hindered the publication at the time.”

It remains unclear whether Zaki Magdi Zaki is the same unidentified protest victim reported in initial statements, or whether there is another unidentified victim. The Sudanese Archive contacted the CCSD for clarity, but was not able to confirm. As such, it can be determined based on these sources that at least eight people were killed during the Omdurman protest on June 30th, although there could be more victims.

Conclusion

After collecting and analysing visual documentation published on social media platforms and news networks, The Sudanese Archive team determined that protesters in Omdurman were targeted with violence on June 30th 2019.

According to the analysed evidence and sources, protesters marched toward White Nile Bridge and were blocked by the security forces that used force to disperse the protesters, resulting in at least 8 killed and more than 50 injured.