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Biden Urges Sudan Junta to Free Detainees, Restore Civilian Rule

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The head of Sudan's military, Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan, announces in a televised address, that he is dissolving the country's ruling Sovereign Council, as well as the government led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, in Khartoum, Sudan, Oct. 25, 2021.

U.S. President Joe Biden has added his voice to those demanding restoration of Sudan's transitional government, which was overthrown by the Sudanese military earlier this week.

In a statement released by the White House, Biden noted the African Union, European Union, Arab League and other world organizations have condemned the military takeover and violence against protesters.

"Together, our message to Sudan's military authorities is overwhelming and clear: The Sudanese people must be allowed to protest peacefully, and the civilian-led transitional government must be restored," Biden said, according to the statement.

He also called on Sudanese authorities to release all those detained this week, including several pro-democracy activists arrested while protesting Monday's coup.

Deadly street protests continued Thursday evening, with security forces using tear gas and firing live and rubber bullets against protesters, witnesses said.

A doctors committee tracking the violence reported that at least one protester was killed and two were critically wounded in the eastern Khartoum district of Bahri, Reuters reported. And another protester was killed and six wounded in the Khartoum-North suburb, Agence France-Presse reported.

Earlier Thursday, the leader of Sudan's military junta fired at least six ambassadors from their posts after they spoke out against this week's overthrow of the joint civilian-military transitional government.

State-run Sudan TV announced Thursday that General Abdel-Fattah Burhan dismissed the envoys to the United States, European Union, China, Qatar and France, as well as the head of Sudan's United Nations mission in Geneva.

A group of Sudanese diplomats issued a joint statement this week condemning the arrest of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife on Monday, and Burhan's decision to dissolve the Sovereign Council and declare a national emergency. The joint civilian-military council had run the country since August 2019, shortly after the ouster of longtime autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising.

In an interview with VOA on Wednesday, Sudan's ambassador to the U.S., Nureldin Satti, said he would work to see that the coup was not accepted.

Reached by telephone at his Washington office on Thursday, Satti said he is not leaving his post and is consulting with the U.S. State Department.

"I do not accept instructions from an illegal body," he said. "I am staying on."

Satti said he has not been contacted by the military leadership in Sudan but heard news of his dismissal from Sudan state media.

Burhan has pledged the military will turn power over to a civilian government in July 2023, after general elections are held. He said the army's overthrow of the transitional government was necessary to avoid a civil war.

The U.N. secretary-general's special envoy to Sudan, Volker Perthes, met with Burhan on Wednesday to discuss the takeover and subsequent developments, according to U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric. Perthes reiterated that the U.N. wants to "see a return to the transition process" and demanded an immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained.

Sudanese security forces arrested demonstrators in Khartoum on Wednesday, including the three pro-democracy activists. Hamdok was released Tuesday, a day after his arrest, but remains closely guarded at his home in Khartoum.

Sudanese youths confront security forces amidst tear gas fired by them to disperse protesters in the capital Khartoum, on Oct. 27, 2021, amid ongoing demonstrations against a military takeover that has sparked widespread international condemnation.
Sudanese youths confront security forces amidst tear gas fired by them to disperse protesters in the capital Khartoum, on Oct. 27, 2021, amid ongoing demonstrations against a military takeover that has sparked widespread international condemnation.

The international community has ramped up pressure on Sudan since the military takeover. Wednesday, the African Union said Sudan was suspended from all AU activities until power is returned to a civilian government.

The World Bank said in a statement it has "paused" financial aid to the country and "stopped processing any new operations as we closely monitor and assess the situation."

The U.S. State Department said it was suspending $700 million in financial assistance to Sudan.

In Sudan, opponents of the coup have called for a "march of millions" on Saturday.

The U.N. Security Council met privately Tuesday to discuss the situation but has so far not issued any statement condemning the coup. Some members, including Russia and China, have publicly questioned whether this week's events qualified as a coup, and have said council members should not interfere in Sudan's domestic affairs.

Hamdok, an economist and diplomat who has worked for the U.N., was named transitional prime minister in August 2019. The transition received strong support from Western countries, including the United States, which removed Sudan from its state sponsors of terrorism list.

But Hamdok faced stiff resistance from elements of Sudan's military. On September 21, forces still loyal to Bashir used tanks to block a key bridge and attempted to seize power. The coup attempt was put down, and dozens of soldiers were arrested.

Nabeel Biajo and Michael Atit of VOA English to Africa's South Sudan in Focus radio program and VOA's U.N. correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report. Some information also came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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