Violent clashes broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces and security forces in the Red Sea coastal city of Port Sudan on late Wednesday evening, multiple eyewitnesses told Mada Masr.
The fighting broke out near the city’s market, the eyewitnesses said, but quickly spread throughout the city.
“I could hear extensive sounds of gunfire near the headquarters of security organs in the city,” one eyewitness stated. “Most people got scared and fled to their homes”
Once the clashes subsided, the Sudanese military appeared to have taken control of Port Sudan.
“Military vehicles are everywhere, with cannons and other heavy weapons, and the security forces have disappeared from the city,” the eyewitness said.
A military source, who spoke to Mada Masr on condition of anonymity, said that at least one security officer had been killed in the clashes.
According to the source, the clashes were prompted by a military officer’s alleged participation in the nearly month-long protests against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir.
“The security bodies provoked the Armed Forces officers based in the city by arresting, beating and accusing a military officer of participating in the protests that have taken place in the city for the last few weeks,” the source said.
The military’s position on the protests has, at times, been a key turning point in the political turbulence. When security forces began to crack down on demonstrators at the outset of the uprising in mid-December, protesters told Mada Masr that Armed Forces officers intervened to protect civilians in Atbara, Gedaref and Port Sudan, among other Sudanese cities.
The clashes in Port Sudan came one day before planned protests on Thursday, which have seen widespread calls for participation circulated by activists and opposition groups on social media.
The independent Sudanese Professionals Association issued a statement on Wednesday, calling for protests against Bashir’s government on January 24.
“Today, you are stronger than your killers,” the statement reads. “You have destroyed the arrogance of the regime. Tomorrow, the streets will embrace you in the protests that will result in its downfall.”
Protests first erupted in the northeastern city of Atbara on December 19 over food shortages and price hikes, later developing into calls for the downfall of Bashir, who has been in power since 1989. The government has claimed that 26 people have been killed, while rights organizations say the death toll is at least 40.