Sudan military council calls for an urgent agreement with leading protest group

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Gunfire as protesters flee on 3 June

Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Gunfire as protesters flee on 3 June

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Sudan's capital and elsewhere in the country on Sunday calling for civilian rule almost three months after the army forced out long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The planned "million man" march is seen as a test for protest organisers who were hit by a 3 June attack on a sit-in in the Sudanese capital and a subsequent internet blackout that limited their ability to mobilise support.

Dozens of demonstrators were killed and hundreds wounded when armed men in military fatigues stormed the sit-in outside army headquarters, shooting and beating protesters who had camped there since April 6.

Protesters waved the Sudanese flag and chanted "civilian, civilian" and "blood for blood", as Sudan beefed up security across the capital. "Civilian rule!", witnesses said.

Video clips showed protesters running away from security forces in the streets of Khartoum and seeking shelter from clouds of tear gas.

Mediators led by the African Union and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have since been trying to broker a return to direct talks.

"We are saying we want a civilian government, a government of competences, of independents".

Sudanese political analyst Salah Aldoma said the coming wave of protests is crucial because recent violence has erased any trust in the military council.

Others chanting "Blood for blood, we don't want compensation" took to the streets of the Jabra district, witnesses said, while rallies were also under way in other neighbourhoods of the capital.

Thousands also launched protests in the cities of Port Sudan, Al-Obied, Madani and Khasma el-Girba, witnesses said.

In preparation for the rallies, Rapid Support Forces (RSF) paramilitaries were deployed to several places in Khartoum in their usual machine gun vans.

"There are vandals, there are people who have an agenda, a hidden agenda, we don't want problems", Dagalo, who is also the ruling military council's deputy chief, said Saturday.

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Protesters have voiced fears of new violence.

The crowds gathered at several points across the capital and its sister city of Omdurman, before marching toward the homes of those people killed since the uprising began.

The ensuing clampdown killed at least 128 people cross the county, according to protest organizers.

Before the rallies began, several countries and NGOs called for restraint, nearly a month after the brutal dispersal on June 3 of a sit-in of demonstrators outside army headquarters in Khartoum, which had left dozens dead.

An investigation committee set up by the Military Council acknowledged that "officers and soldiers" were involved in the dispersal of the sit-in, but the Military Council assured that it had given the order to conduct an anti-drug operation in a nearby area, which overflowed and went wrong.

The military warned it would hold the opposition responsible for any violence or loss of life in the protests.

An RSF unit allegedly prevented protest leaders from holding a news conference Saturday to unveil plans for the rally.

Ethiopia and the African Union have mediated between the two sides and proposed the creation of a 15-member civilian-majority body to govern the country during a three-year transition period.

Long-term dictator Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April following a popular revolt against his presidency.

Opposition groups kept up those demonstrations as they pressed the military to hand over power to civilians.

Demonstrators' "right to peacefully protest and express their views on 30 June, or on any other date, remains key", the European Union said.

"The horrific unprovoked use of lethal and unnecessary force against peaceful protesters as witnessed on 3 June must not be repeated this Sunday, or ever again", Amnesty International's Secretary-General Kumi Naidoo said.

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