Bridges blocked by security forces as protest marks the 11th day of big demonstrations since the October 25 coup.
Sudanese authorities have shut down mobile and internet services and security forces were deployed across Khartoum as pro-democracy protesters prepared to hold fresh protests.
Army, police and paramilitary patrols crisscrossed the capital’s streets on Thursday, while shipping containers blocked the Nile bridges that connect it with its northern suburbs and the twin city of Omdurman.
An army checkpoint with an armoured vehicle was seen stationed at one of the bridges that remained open.
The planned protest will be the 11th day of significant demonstrations since an October 25 coup, which saw Abdalla Hamdok removed and then reinstated as prime minister. The demonstrators have demanded that the military stay out of any government role during a transition to free elections.
The bridges were blocked off during the last protests on December 25, when tens of thousands took to the streets.
Protesters opposed to military rule reached near the presidential palace that day, despite the extensive deployment of tear gas and a communications blackout. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said more than 200 people were injured during that protest, with six caused by live bullets.
At least 48 people have been killed by security forces since pro-democracy activists launched a campaign of street demonstrations against the coup, according to the Doctors’ Committee.
A source from a telecoms company told the Reuters news agency the order to shut down the internet came from the Sudan National Telecommunications Corporation.
Activists use the internet for organising demonstrations and broadcasting live footage of the rallies.
Meanwhile, new surveillance cameras were installed on the main Khartoum thoroughfares along which demonstrators were due to march for Thursday’s planned protests.
US appeal for calm
The US embassy appealed for restraint from the government led by military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, which had been counting on a controversial November partnership deal with Hamdok to calm public anger.
“The US embassy reiterates its support for peaceful expression of democratic aspiration, and the need to respect and protect individuals exercising free speech,” a statement said.
“We call for extreme discretion in use of force and urge authorities to refrain from employing arbitrary detention.”
Activists have condemned the sexual violence attacks during the December 19 protests, in which the UN said at least 13 women and girls were raped or gang-raped.
Hamdok had been held under effective house arrest for weeks before returning to the prime ministerial post under the November deal, which promised elections for July 2023.
But the agreement was widely criticised as a gift to the military that gave a cloak of legitimacy to its coup, with pro-democracy protesters accusing Hamdok of “betrayal”.
Sudan’s sovereign council this week reinstated powers of arrests, detentions and seizures to the country’s intelligence service.