Sudan ruling military council general says coup attempt foiled

General Jamal Omar (C), a member of Sudan's Transitional Military Council (TMC), arrives to attend the release of 235 members of a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army, which has fought government forces in war-torn Darfur, at Al-Huda prison in the capital Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman on July 4, 2019. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 13 July 2019
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Sudan ruling military council general says coup attempt foiled

  • General Jamal Omar of the ruling military council released a statement
  • The regular forces were able to foil the attempt, he said

KHARTOUM, Sudan: Sudan’s ruling military council said it foiled an attempted military coup Thursday, just days after the military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed on a joint sovereign council to rule the country during a transition period until elections are held.
Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of the military council, said in a statement that at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested. Security forces were pursuing the group’s leader and additional officers who took part in plotting the coup attempt, he said.
The council did not reveal the name of the attempted leader, his rank or other details. The statement also said five of the arrested officers were retired.
The military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed last Friday on a joint sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized. Both sides say a diplomatic push by the US and its Arab allies was key to ending a weekslong standoff that raised fears of all-out civil war.
“The attempted coup came in a critical time, ahead of the deal with the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change,” Omar said, referring to the group that speaks for the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Sudan has been in political deadlock since the overthrow of autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir in April.
On Sunday, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Sudan’s top general, said the military council that assumed power after Al-Bashir’s overthrow would be dissolved with the implementation of the power-sharing deal.
The deal was meant to end the impasse between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed a massive pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum early last month, killing more than 100 people, according to protest organizers.
In the ensuing weeks, protesters stayed in the streets, demanding that the generals hand power to civilian leadership.
The deal was reached after tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Sudan’s main cities on June 30 in the biggest demonstrations since the sit-in camp was razed. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.
The power-sharing arrangement is to include a joint sovereign council of five civilians representing the protest movement and five military members. An 11th seat is to go to a civilian chosen by both sides. The protesters will select a Cabinet of technocrats, and a legislative council is to be formed after three months.
The two sides also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown, but the details have yet to be worked out.


Tunisia toils to find final resting place for drowned migrants

Updated 22 July 2019
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Tunisia toils to find final resting place for drowned migrants

  • A string of deadly shipwrecks since May have left the North African country overwhelmed with bodies

GABES: A putrid odour lingers outside a morgue in Tunisia’s coastal city of Gabes as dozens of bodies of would-be migrants to Europe pulled out of the sea await burial.
A string of deadly shipwrecks since May have left the North African country overwhelmed with bodies and struggling to find them a final resting place.
More than 80 drowned migrants have been retrieved from Tunisian waters — most of them victims of a deadly July 1 shipwreck that left only three survivors.
Fished out of the sea between the port city of Zarzis and the tourist island of Djerba in the south, their bodies were brought to Gabes hospital — the only facility in the region capable of taking DNA samples.
Under pressure from civil society groups, Tunisian authorities have stepped up efforts to systematically collect the DNA of each unidentified drowned migrant, hospital director Hechmi Lakhrech told AFP.
The samples could well be the only hope of informing the victims’ families of their fate, he added.
In the basement morgue, staff use surgical masks or simple scarves to fend off the stench of bodies stacked one top of the other on the floor.
Since July 6, the numbers have “overwhelmed” the morgue’s 30-body capacity, said Lakhrech.
With just two forensic doctors and two assistants, not to mention a lack of equipment, the facility is struggling to keep them properly stored, he added.
After forensic tests, the bodies are kept at the morgue until a burial site is found, which in Tunisia is complicated, according to Gabes governor Mongi Thameur.
Many municipalities have refused to allow the drowned migrants to be buried in their cemeteries.
“Some fear the bodies carry cholera, and others refuse to bury people in Muslim cemeteries if their religion is unknown,” he told AFP.
It comes down to “a problem of mentality and also of humanity in some cases,” he said, adding that many people needed to be “sensitised.”
At the Bouchama cemetery, the only one in Gabes to have so far accepted migrant bodies, 16 graves dug off to the side lie empty.
“My parents are resting here, I don’t want non-Muslims to be buried by their side,” said one local resident.
In front of the hospital, the stifling midday heat beats down as 14 white bags are carefully loaded onto the back of a garbage truck.
Once loaded, it will make the two-hour journey to Zarzis, where an improvised cemetery flooded with the bodies of migrants for several years is now full, and a new one has just been opened.
Each grave is marked with a simple plaque bearing the victim’s DNA file number and burial date.
“On July 12, we collected 45 bodies in one day!” said Zarzis deputy mayor Faouzi Khenissi, calling it a “phenomenal problem.”
The city has taken in the bodies “because we have this culture, we can’t just leave the remains unburied,” he said.
Zarzis is a hotspot for illegal departures to Europe and Khenissi says some of the city’s own youth have also been victims of the wrecks.
Municipal workers and officials take shifts volunteering after work to conduct the burials.
After three hours of prep under the blazing sun, 14 bodies are buried alongside the 47 others already laid to rest at the new site, just outside a shelter for rescued migrants.
Mongi Slim of the country’s Red Crescent called for “international mobilization” to address the issue which “does not concern Tunisia alone.”
“The country is already struggling to take care of rescued migrants, but even more so for those who’ve died.”