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Demonstrators killed in Sudan as military breaks sit-in

There were multiple reports of the military using force to disperse the sit-in in front of army headquarters

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A Sudanese protester walks past burning tyres as military forces tried to disperse the sit-in outside Khartoum's army headquarters

Two protesters were shot dead on Monday as forces loyal to Sudan’s transitional military council tried to break up a long-running sit-in in front of the army headquarters, a doctors committee close to the protesters said.

“Two peaceful protesters were killed by live bullets fired at the orders of the Transitional Military Council,” the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said on Twitter without giving further details.

Gunfire was heard from the protest site, with witnesses reporting a heavy deployment of security forces around the streets of the capital.

There were multiple reports of the military using force to disperse the sit-in in front of army headquarters, where protesters have been camped out for weeks.

“Now an attempt is taking place to disperse the sit-in at the headquarters of the people’s armed forces by force by the military council,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association, the group which spearheaded nationwide protests that started in December.

Rallies against the authoritarian rule of Omar al-Bashir led to his ouster in April, but demonstrators have remained to call on the generals to cede power to a transitional authority.

Near the demonstration site, a witness living in the Burri neighbourhood said he could “hear the sound of gunfire and I see a plume of smoke rising from the area of the sit-in.” 

Another resident of the area, in east Khartoum, said he had seen forces in “police uniform” trying to expel the demonstrators.

Britain’s ambassador to Khartoum, Irfan Siddiq, said he had heard “heavy gunfire” from his residence.

The SPA said it amounted to a “bloody massacre”, and called on Sudanese to take part in “total civil disobedience” to topple the military council and for people to take to the streets to protest.

Demonstrators had closed off Street 60, one of the main streets in the capital with stone barricades and burning tree trunks and tires.

The SPA had said on Saturday that it had reason to believe the military council was “planning and working to end the peaceful sit-in at the headquarters with excessive force and violence” after three people were killed in incidents on the fringes of the sit-in last week.

Negotiations between protest leaders and the ruling military council have broken down, as the two sides have failed to agree on whether a planned transitional body would be headed by a civilian or a military figure.

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Turkey’s Erdogan claims ex-Egyptian president was killed

“Mohammed Morsi was on the ground of courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. The officials present there failed to intervene.” -Erdogan

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Turkey's Erdogan claims ex-Egyptian president was killed
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Serhat Cagdas / Anadolu Agency

Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed that Egypt’s former president, Mohammed Morsi, who collapsed in court and later died, did not die of natural causes but that he was killed.

Erdogan, while giving a speech in Istanbul, cited as evidence that the deposed Egyptian president allegedly “flailed” in a Cairo courtroom for 20 minutes on Monday and nobody came to his assistance.

On Wednesday, the Turkish president said: “Unfortunately, Mohammed Morsi was on the ground of courtroom flailing for 20 minutes. The officials present there failed to intervene. Morsi did not (die) naturally, he was killed.”

Erdogan said his country would do everything in its power to ensure Egypt faces trial in Morsi’s death. He also called on the Islamic Cooperation Organization to “take the necessary action” over the death of Morsi.

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Morsi gains popularity after death, supporters confer martyr status

Morsi’s supporters have quickly given him the status of a “martyr”.

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Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
A portrait of former President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi as people attend the funeral prayer in absentia for Morsi at Hunkar mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Unpopular in power and deposed after huge protests, Egypt’s ex-president Mohamed Morsi could be humanised in the eyes of many Egyptians after his death in court Monday.

“It is sad, from a strictly human point of view”, a trader in central Cairo said of the former head of state, who had been imprisoned since his 2013 fall from power, and was buried on Tuesday.

“He was old and ill. Whatever one thinks of the political situation, his death while the court was in-session shows that those who judged him were not good people”, the trader said, on condition of anonymity.

Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
People attend the funeral prayer in absentia for Morsi at Hunkar mosque in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on June 19, 2019. Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood is banned in Egypt and he was appealing a 2015 death sentence, making both the man and his organisation extremely sensitive topics in the country.

While Morsi’s supporters have quickly given him the status of a “martyr”, Egyptian authorities appear keen to avoid a wave of empathy from citizens, who largely favoured the uprising that deposed him.

His rapid burial on Tuesday morning took place extremely discreetly and under heavy surveillance, while the public and the press were forbidden from attending.

‘Death symbolically important’ –

Morsi came to power in 2012 in elections that took place the year after a popular uprising that deposed president Hosni Mubarak, who had headed an authoritarian regime for three decades.

Spurred on by mass demonstrations against Morsi’s own rule, the army ousted him on July 3, 2013 and Egypt declared the Brotherhood a “terrorist organisation”.

Ever since, the government has cracked down heavily on opponents, especially on members of the Islamist organisation.

The official narrative, regularly broadcast by Egyptian TV channels — which are all behind the regime — is that the Brotherhood are “terrorists” who harm the country’s interests.

Egypt's Morsi likely 'more popular' after death
Mustafa Ozturk / Anadolu Agency

Since Morsi’s death was announced, some channels have hosted “experts” denouncing the “violence” and “lies” perpetrated by the group.

On Tuesday morning, pro-government newspapers only briefly mentioned Morsi’s death, without referencing his status as a former president.

TV channels devoted most of their airtime to a visit by current President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi — Morsi’s former defence minister, who ultimately toppled him before being elected head of state in 2014 — to Belarus.

“As a president, Mohamed Morsi was not very popular among Egyptians — in fact he was unpopular, he was seen as uncharismatic, indecisive, very unsteady,” said Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics.

But “his death in a courtroom will humanise him in the eyes of many Egyptians” who do not support the Brotherhood, Gerges added.

While Morsi was not a great leader for the Brotherhood, “his death will be symbolically important” and could drive radical elements of the group to take up arms against the authorities, Gerges said.

Radicalisation –

Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has faced numerous waves of repression by Egyptian governments, which have been dominated by the military since 1952.

Morsi’s death adds to a long list of what the Brotherhood call martyrs, including the group’s founder Hassan al-Banna, who was assassinated in 1949 by Egypt’s secret police.

Another key figure, Sayyed Qotb — one of the movement’s main ideologues and an inspiration behind its radicalism — was executed in August 1966 by Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime, which fiercely repressed the Brotherhood.

But for Zack Gold, an analyst at the CNA research centre in the United States, it is “unlikely Morsi’s death will result in any immediate rise in the security threat to Egypt”.

Jihadist movements — sympathetic or not to the Brotherhood — are already very active in Egypt, particularly the Islamic State group in North Sinai, the Middle East security expert said.

Since 2013, hundreds of Egyptian soldiers, police and also civilians have been killed in attacks.

“In the long term, it would be concerning if the government pre-emptively arrested large numbers out of concern for street protests or other outbursts in the wake of Morsi’s death,” Gold said.

Conditions in Egypt’s prisons “have a track record of radicalising individuals”, he noted.

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North Africa

Algeria’s army chief describes military opponents as ‘enemies of Algeria’

According to Gaid Salah, a constitutional void would amount to “the destruction of the foundations of the Algerian national state”.

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Algeria's army chief describes military opponents as 'enemies of Algeria'
Lieutenant-General Ahmed Gaid Salah, chief of Staff of the Algerian Armed Forces and Vice-minister of Defence. (Photo by RYAD KRAMDI / AFP)

Algeria’s Military chief, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, has regarded those who oppose the military as enemies of the country, as the country’s protest movement persistently demand the removal of the ruling elite that has been in power for years.

“Those who are knowingly trying to circumvent… terms of the constitution, do they realise what it means to suppress all state institutions?” he asked in a speech.

According to Gaid Salah, a constitutional void would amount to “the destruction of the foundations of the Algerian national state”.

Related: Students in Algeria protest against army chief

“It is unthinkable to proceed in the name of the people with the destruction of the achievements of the Algerian people, that is to say… the constitution.’’

Demonstrations similar to the ones that led to the removal of Bouteflika have carried on, with protesters demanding an end to the current regime and the establishment of independent institutions.

An election which was previously planned for July 4 was later postponed by authorities, without a new date being announced.

Related: Presidential elections cannot hold July 4, Algeria’s constitutional council says

On Monday, Algeria’s top businessman Ali Haddad, who was a key supporter of Bouteflika, was jailed for six months for possessing two passports, in the first conviction in a string of corruption probes.

Last week, two former prime ministers were detained by a judge.

Related: Key Bouteflika ally, Ali Haddad jailed for six months in Algeria

The judiciary must “bring to justice all the corrupt regardless of their function or their social rank”, Gaid Salah said.

“The fight against corruption knows no limit and no exception will be made to anyone… it’s time to clean up our country,” he added.

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