By Daphne Psaledakis and Khalid Abdelaziz
WASHINGTON/KHARTOUM (Reuters) -The United States on Monday imposed sanctions on Sudan’s Central Reserve Police, accusing it of using excessive force against peaceful protesters demonstrating against last October’s military coup.
The U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement the Central Reserve Police, a division of the wider police force, has been at the forefront of the “violent response” of Sudanese security forces to peaceful protests in Khartoum.
Singling out a single day in January, it accused the group of firing live ammunition and, along with anti-riot police and regular police, chasing protesters trying to flee, arresting and beating some, and fatally shooting two and injuring others.
“Since the October 25 military takeover, Sudan’s Central Reserve Police has used excessive force and violence intended to silence civilian activists and protesters,” the Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian Nelson, said in the statement.
“We condemn Sudan’s security services for killing, harassing, and intimidating Sudanese citizens.”
A police spokesman could not be reached for comment. Military leaders have said peaceful protests are allowed and that protest casualties will be investigated.
Sudan has been rocked for months by protests organized by neighborhood-based resistance committees. Some 88 people have died in the crackdown on protests, and thousands have been injured, many by gunfire.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a separate statement called for an immediate end to violence against peaceful protesters.
“We remain poised to use all tools at our disposal to support the Sudanese people in their pursuit of a democratic, human rights-respecting, and prosperous Sudan,” Blinken said.
The Central Reserve Police, a heavily-armed division of Sudan’s police force, was used during the early 2000s Darfur war, during which the Khartoum government put down a rebellion in the Western region. An estimated 300,000 people were killed in the war, and then-President Omar al-Bashir and aides face war crimes charges from the International Criminal Court.
Known locally as “Abu Tayra,” referring to the bird that forms a part of their recognizable logo, they have been deployed frequently, along with other security forces, in recent months following the coup.
Members of the forces could be seen among a heavy deployment in central Khartoum during protests on Monday, a Reuters witness said. Protesters faced tear gas, stun grenades, and red water sprays as they attempted to march toward the presidential palace.
Monday’s so-called Global Magnitsky sanctions, which target those accused of corruption, human rights abuses and anti-democratic actions around the world, freeze any U.S. assets of the Central Reserve Police and bar Americans from dealing with them.
Billions of dollars in foreign aid were suspended by Western countries and international financing institutions after the coup and military commanders have yet to appoint a prime minister to tackle the economic crisis.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Katharine Jackson in Washington, Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum and Nafisa Eltahir in Cairo;Edited by Caitlin Webber, Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)