Sudanese man's death draws attention to paramilitary force

CAIRO (AP) - The death of a Sudanese man kidnapped in a coffee shop has sparked controversy over the size of a paramilitary force, the members of which were once the backbone of a militia that has committed war crimes, according to right-wing groups in Darfur.
Bahaa el-Din Nouri, 45, was taken from the Kalakla neighborhood in the southern part of the capital Khartoum on December 16 by plainclothes men driving in a vehicle without a license plate.
Five days later, his body appeared in a morgue in the city of Omdurman, just across the Nile from Khartoum. According to Nouri's brother Yasser, the family refused to bury the body immediately after seeing signs of obvious beatings and torture.
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Culture and Information Minister Faisal Mohammed Saleh said the family met with the attorney general on Thursday and asked for an autopsy to uncover the cause of death.
Saleh, who is also a government spokesman, said an initial investigation revealed that Nouri died while being interrogated by the Rapid Support Forces.
Brig. General Gamal Goma, the RSF spokesman, said the head of the RSF intelligence unit and officers involved in Nouri's detention and interrogation have been suspended or detained pending an investigation into his death. The statement gave no further details.
The RSF consists largely of ex-Janjaweed militiamen who have carried out brutal crackdowns in the Darfur region of Sudan over the past two decades. Right-wing groups have accused the Janjaweed of war crimes, including the rape and killing of civilians and the burning of villages during counterinsurgency raids in Darfur and other areas of Western Sudan during the conflict.
The RSF is led by the powerful Sudanese general Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who is also vice chairman of the ruling Sovereignty Council. Dagalo was appointed head of the RSF by former longtime leader Omar al-Bashir.
Since the fall of al-Bashir in April 2019, Dagalo has become Sudan's most important energy broker. Its armed forces are stationed in areas across the capital and in other capitals. The country is currently run by a joint military-civil government.
A report by the Sudanese news website Monti-Caroo, which reports extensively on RSF activities, said Nouri was being interrogated on charges of belonging to a "terrorist group that deals in explosives." The report gave no further details.
The Sudanese Professionals' Association, which led mass protests against al-Bashir, called for all detention centers operated by the RSF to be closed. The association also demanded the release of the detainees from the RSF or the transfer of detainees to the police.
In a satirical tweet, the Sudanese analyst and the editor of al-Tayar newspaper, Osman Mirghani, suggested that Sudanese drivers remove their license plates in order to force the government to ban security forces.
Activist Shamael el-Noor called for those responsible for Nouri's death to be held accountable and for impunity to end if the suspects are members of the security forces. She said what happened to Nouri could happen to anyone, adding, "This is a serious indication of the inactivity of government institutions on security issues."
Another Sudanese man died on Saturday, the day after he was released from police custody in Omdurman, according to a police statement on Sunday.
Ezzel-Din Ali Hamed, 22, was arrested on December 17 as part of an investigation into the charge of robbery. On Friday the public prosecutor ordered his release pending investigation.
According to the police, his health deteriorated after his release and he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead. The police statement did not say what was wrong with him, but did say that security officials involved in Hamed's arrest and death have been arrested and investigated.
The statement was released amid public outcry over his death. Hamed's family protested outside a hospital in Omdurman on Saturday, accusing police of beating and torturing him to death.
Meanwhile, French researcher Jean-Baptiste Gallopin said he was not allowed to enter Sudan. He said he was detained at Khartoum airport on arrival Sunday morning and that security officials told him that his name was on a "safety list".
"I'm safe at home now ... I hope to return to Sudan soon and get back to work," Gallopin, a former researcher at Amnesty International, said in a tweet.
Government spokesman Saleh did not respond to comments.
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