June 3 (UPI) -- Sudanese security forces used live ammunition Monday to break up a sit-in protest against military rule, killing at least 35 people and wounding hundreds more, officials said.
The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, which is a member of the opposition Sudanese Professionals Association, increased the death toll from nine people, which it reported earlier, after an early morning attack by Sudanese security forces outside of the Defense Ministry in the capital Khartoum.
"The exact number is unclear as armed militias and security forces are surrounding the hospitals and attacking/arresting doctors," the medical group said on its Facebook page. "Moreover, according to testimonies of doctors and protesters, many of the dead bodies at the sit-in area were taken by the Janjaweed militias and thrown into the Nile River."
Protests demanding that rule of Sudan be handed over to civil society have been staged in front of the ministry since April. The military then ended dictator Omar al-Bashir's 30 years at the country's helm in a military coup April 11, but protests have persisted demanding the country be handed over immediately.
The military has repeatedly urged the public to end the protests in order for city life to return to normal, which the protesters have ignored.
The attack on Monday began at 5 a.m. with troops from the Rapid Support Forces under orders from the ruling Transitional Military Council first using tear gas and then a sound grenade to disperse protesters. Then, they fired live rounds into the crowd to disperse those that remained in central Khartoum.
The SPA called the attack a "massacre."
In response, the SPA said it has terminated negotiations with the ruling TMC over the handing over of Sudan's rule as well as "all sorts of communications."
"The leaders and members of the council are all held responsible for the blood that was shed since April 11, 2019, and they shall be brought before competent courts in Sudan, once the revolution is victorious," the SPA said in a statement.
The SPA also called for a nationwide strike and complete civil disobedience effective immediately, while referring to the TMC as the "coup council."
Amnesty International Monday urged the international community to apply pressure, such as sanctions, against members of the TMC for the attack.
"With this senseless slaughter, the TMC has completely destroyed the trust of the Sudanese people and crushed the people's hope for a new era of respect for human rights and respect for the right to protest without fear," Amnesty International's East Africa Deputy Director Sarah Jackson said in a statement, adding, "The United Nations Security Council ... must consider targeted sanctions on members of the TMC and others involved in the attack."
The announcement by Amny International follows the SPA taking to Twitter during the attack to appeal to humanitarian organizations, urging them to "intervene to help the patients trapped in the picket square, in their homes and in some hospitals" surrounded by security forces.
The opposition also called on Sudanese citizens to take to the streets in protest.
"Go out in marches and block all streets and bridges in order to protect the revolution," the SPA said on its website. "SPA and allies also call for a general disobedience until the Transitional Military Council is toppled."
Witnesses said the soldiers are heavily armed and were attacking peaceful protesters who did nothing to provoke the attack.
"They were shooting at every one randomly and people were running for their lives," witness Mohammed Elmunir said. "They blocked all roads and most tents at the sit-in have been set on fire."
SPA said in a statement that the TMC would be held accountable for the deaths.
"It is imperative to go out to the streets to protect the revolution and the remaining dignity," the group said. "Our weapons are peace, courage."
British Ambassador to Sudan Irfan Siddiq said on Twitter to condemn the attack on the protesters.
"Extremely concerned by the heavy gunfire I've been hearing over the last hour from my residence and reports that Sudanese security forces are attacking the protest sit-in site resulting in casualties," he said. "No excuse for any such attack. This. Must. Stop. Now."