CAIRO - Sudan's newly appointed prime minister has launched an independent investigation into June's deadly crackdown on protesters that killed dozens of people and threatened to crush the country's pro-democracy uprising.
Protest leaders had demanded the establishment of an international inquiry as part of a subsequent power-sharing agreement with the military, but the generals insisted on a Sudanese-led probe.
According to the protesters, at least 128 people were killed and hundreds wounded when security forces violently dispersed the protesters' main sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, on June 3. Authorities put the death toll at 87, including 17 inside the sit-in area.
The violence signaled a crackdown across Sudan that led to a breakdown in talks between the protesters and the ruling generals, who ousted autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April amid nationwide protests against his nearly 30-year rule.
Sudan's new civilian leader, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, said late Saturday the investigation will be led by a seven-member committee that includes a top judge, an independent figure and two attorneys. The justice, defense and interior ministries will also be represented on the committee.
The probe, which should conclude its work within six months, could seek support from the African Union if needed, said Hamdok, who was headed to New York to attend the U.N. meetings.
An investigation by Sudanese prosecutors in July said the ruling generals did not order the deadly break-up, but blamed the widely condemned dispersal on paramilitary forces who exceeded their orders.
Prosecutor Fathel-Rahman Said said at the time that security forces were told only to clear a lawless area close to the protest camp, not the sit-in itself.
In the days leading up to the dispersal, the military said the lawless area near the camp had become a haven for ``drug dealers and other criminals.''
Troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces however moved to disperse the protest camp on their own initiative, Said added.
He said eight RSF officers, including a major general, have been accused of crimes against humanity. He did not elaborate on how the investigation would proceed against the accused officers.