Sudan’s Secret Hit Squads Used to Attack Protests – BBC Africa Eye documentary

Sudan’s Secret Hit Squads Used to Attack Protests - BBC Africa Eye documentary

These are images Sudan’s government does not want you to see: teams of masked, plainclothes agents chasing down protesters, beating them, and dragging them off to secret detention centres in Khartoum.

Who are these hit squads? Where are these detention centres? And what happens inside their walls?

BBC Africa Eye has analysed dozens of dramatic videos filmed during the recent uprising, and spoken with witnesses who have survived torture at the hands of the Bashir regime. Some of these protesters tell us about a secret and widely feared holding facility – The Fridge – where the cold is used an instrument of torture.

Investigation led by:
Benjamin Strick
Abdulmoniem Suleiman
Klaas Van Dijken
Aliaume Leroy

Produced and Edited by:
Suzanne Vanhooymissen
Tom Flannery
Daniel Adamson


These are images the Sudanese government does
not want you to see… …teams of soldiers and secret agents chasing
down protestors in the streets of the capital, Khartoum… bagging them over the head… beating them… …and dragging them off to secret detention
centres where they are held without charge, and in some cases, tortured. Sudanese activists fear these hit squads. In this film, we’ll show you who they are… …how they operate… …and what happens inside the walls of buildings
like this. Sudan’s uprising began in December 2018. At first, people were protesting a hike in
fuel and food prices. But the demonstrations quickly turned into
a revolt against President Omar al Bashir. Crowds chanted slogans from the Arab Spring
revolutions of 2011 The government has responded with violence. Security forces have used live ammunition. According to human rights groups, they have
killed more than 50 of their own citizens. But they’re not just dispersing protests. Sudanese activists have recorded dozens of
videos that show the abduction of individual dissidents. We have now analysed more than 200 videos
from the uprising. In order to protect the people who filmed
them, we cannot share the exact locations at which they were recorded. But we can use them to show you the hit squads
in action. This is what they look like: teams of around
six men in white Toyota pickup trucks… …sometimes with the number plates removed
or covered up. Some are in military uniform. Others in plain clothes. Many are wearing masks and carrying weapons: from automatic rifles to crude lengths of plastic pipes used to beat protestors. So who are these masked, plainclothes agents? Sudanese activists describe them as low-ranking thugs in the pay of the National Security and Intelligence Services, or NISS. This video doesn’t look like much, but it’s
important because it corroborates that view. We see soldiers in military fatigues, policemen
in blue uniforms, and plainclothes agents all working together. The clip also captures six of the white pickup
trucks, and a building that is easily identified: the al-Kalakla police station in the south
of Khartoum. This evidence, in combination with the footage
of these men in action and the testimony of Sudanese activists, points towards the obvious
conclusion: the plainclothes agents are part of the government’s security forces. These squads have been deployed since December
to clear demonstrators from the streets. Here’s an example of one crew in action… …filmed by a group of demonstrators who kept their phone recording even as they came
under fire. The agents are working around this block,
clearing away protestors . Notice the plainclothes agent at the front… … and the man in red in the back. Around the same time, just around the corner,
someone else captured the same team in action. Here’s the man in red… and here’s what looks like the same lead agent, firing at protestors. But this is not just crowd control. These crews target one person… on the streets… or at home. The victims are beaten…. …dragged into the car… …and disappear. We do not know where all these people end up. But some of them, at least, are brought to
a secret holding facility here, just south of Asia hospital. How do we know this? On January 11, this photo was posted to social media. The post claims that the street contains a
detention centre run by state security. Since the 1990s, local activists have called
these places "Ghost Houses" because people disappear behind their walls and because when detainees are tortured, you can hear the screams. We confirmed that the photo was taken here. A second activist told us about a detention
centre in the same neighbourhood. When we asked him to show us the exact location,
he sent us this screenshot, which also places the Ghost House just south of Asia Hospital. The same source took these photos, which can
be located precisely. We have since spoken with eight different
witnesses who said they were detained in a building close to Asia Hospital. Five of these witnesses said that protestors
were beaten so badly that they could no longer walk. Some told us that people’s hands were broken
as they attempted to fend off the blows, and that the floor was covered in blood. But the Asia hospital Ghost House is not their
final destination. Two sources told us that this is just a holding
facility where detainees are interrogated and sorted. Many activists deemed to be a threat to the
regime are transferred to a larger detention centre here, just north of Khartoum’s Shandi bus terminal. We have no photos of this place. One witness told us that you cannot get anywhere
near this block with a phone or a camera. But we spoke to seven former detainees and asked them if they knew
exactly where they’d been taken. Using their phones, they marked up screenshots, identifying a row of four buildings as a torture centre
run by Sudanese security. One of our sources added a crucial detail
– an arrow pointing to The Fridge. Activist said that The Fridge is a series
of chilled holding cells in which the cold is used as an instrument of torture – an instrument
that leaves no marks on the body. We also spoke with a second person who had
been detained here. The Fridge is not new. We spoke with one dissident who was held in
a cold cell as far back as 2009. Activists who have been detained here also
describe being beaten, sleep deprived, and held in stress positions. We put these allegation to the Sudanese authorities. A government spokesperson denied the existence
of secret detention centres, and told us that nobody in the security services had ever heard
about The Fridge. He said that Sudanese law prohibits the beating
or torture of detainees, and that police are forbidden from pursuing protesters into narrow
streets or into their homes. He said the protests had not been approved,
and were therefore illegal. He also claimed the protesters were not peaceful,
that some had used firearms, and that the police had to defend themselves. On January 29th, Sudan’s security chief, Mr Salah
Ghosh, ordered the release of all detainees held during the recent protests. Some detainees – including people we are in
touch with – have been released since then. But many remain in detention. And other demonstrators are still being targeted. A week after Ghosh’s announcement, protesters
were back on the streets of Khartoum, calling for freedom. This man raised the Sudanese flag. He was still holding it ….even as he was
hauled away.

28 thoughts on “Sudan’s Secret Hit Squads Used to Attack Protests – BBC Africa Eye documentary”

  1. Dear Sudanese brothers, do not kill one another anymore. Solders, wake up and put your guns down, you and your leaders have no hearts. How can you beat and tortures people who are asking for human rights. Don't worry you'll pay for everything you've done

  2. The European colonials left Africa in the 1960's. Africans rejoiced at plotting their own course in the world and the freedom from colonial rule to do so. Almost 60 years later, Africans have managed to slaughter each other in staggering proportions through civil war, dictatorships, famine induced by themselves, plague, etc., etc., etc. This is something that cannot be blamed on the Europeans, yet there are folks who still try to blame someone else for their own failures.

  3. everyone thinking previous president did it but he is not in chair anymore there is some other game running from dirty hand its not plan of Al bashir its something else note my commend you will understand after 5 years

  4. Who ever edited this documentary, with the slow downs, close-ups, circling the importants areas to focus on, did an excellent job and should be teaching others how to do this.

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