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story.lead_photo.caption In this frame grab from video, people wait in line for gasoline, in Khartoum, Sudan, Sunday, June 9, 2019. The first day of the workweek in Sudan saw shops closed and streets empty as part of a general strike called by protest leaders who are demanding the resignation of the ruling military council. The Sudanese Professionals Association had urged people to stay home to protest a deadly crackdown last week, when security forces violently dispersed the group’s main sit-in camp outside the military headquarters in the capital of Khartoum. (AP Photo)

KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Shops were closed and streets were empty across Sudan on Sunday, the first day of a general strike called for the start of the workweek by protest leaders demanding the resignation of the ruling military council.

The Sudanese Professionals Association urged people to stay home to protest the deadly crackdown last week when security forces violently dispersed the group's main sit-in outside the military headquarters in the capital, Khartoum.

The protesters say more than 100 people have been killed since the crackdown began June 3, including at least four slain by security forces on Sunday.

The protesters hope that their strike and campaign of civil disobedience will force the military to hand over power to civilians. The military leaders ousted longtime President Omar al-Bashir in April after four months of rallies. The generals have refused demonstrators' demands for an immediate move to civilian rule, instead pushing for a transitional power-sharing arrangement.

The Sudanese Professionals Association posted photos of what it said was an empty Khartoum International Airport, adding that airport workers and pilots are taking part in the civil disobedience.

Other videos online showed offices and businesses closed and light traffic, in both Khartoum and the Red Sea city of Port Sudan.

Sudanese Professionals Association activist Dura Gambo said participation in the general strike "exceeded our expectations."

"All private and some government banks joined the strike. Cities across the country are almost empty," she said.

The head of the leading opposition Umma party, Sadek al-Mahdi, warned of escalation from both the protest leaders and the military council.

"The mutual escalation damages the county. We have been working to adjust the strike and disobedience to contain the escalation," he said in televised comments.

Military council spokesman Shams al-Deen al-Kabashi urged the protest leaders to retract their call for civil disobedience.

In televised comments, al-Kabashi said the council would accept proposals provided by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to resume talks. Ahmed has been trying to revive negotiations between the generals and the protest leaders.

"We have no objections to get back to negotiations and reach consensus," al-Kabashi said, adding that it would study the conditions provided by the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, an umbrella group of opposition figures and protest leaders.

An Associated Press journalist saw a heavy deployment of troops from the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces in several parts of Khartoum and its sister city of Omdurman. There are long lines for fuel in several areas in the capital.

The Internet remains cut off in Khartoum, and other types of communications also are restricted, with reports of mobile network services heavily disrupted.

Security forces removed barricades from main roads and opened the sit-in area outside the military's headquarters for the first time in a week. The Sudanese Professionals Association urged protesters to avoid clashes with the Rapid Support Forces.

The Rapid Support Forces grew out of the Janjaweed militias used by al-Bashir in the Darfur conflict in the early 2000s. Protesters accuse it of leading the nationwide crackdown, and the Sudanese Professionals Association has called for the force to be disbanded.

The Sudan Doctors' Committee, the medical affiliate of the Sudanese Professionals Association, said that of the four people killed Sunday, one was a young man who was shot by the Rapid Support Forces in Khartoum's Bahri neighborhood. Two others died of their wounds after Rapid Support Forces members beat them, and a fourth was shot in Omdurman, it said.

The committee says 118 people have been killed since June 3. The military-run Health Ministry has offered a lower death toll of 61, including 49 civilians and three security forces in Khartoum.

The Sudanese Professionals Association said peaceful, civil disobedience and a general strike "is the fastest and most effective way to topple the military council ... and to hand over power to a transitional civilian authority." It urged international agencies to refrain from dealing with the military council.

A Section on 06/10/2019

Print Headline: Sudan's businesses close in protest of military rule

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