Tessa Knight and Michael Sheldon, “Geolocated footage capture chaotic scenes following Sudan military coup,” Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab), October 27, 2021, https://medium.com/dfrlab/geolocated-footage-capture-chaotic-scenes-following-sudan-military-coup-5bd1ec517778.
BANNER: A person wearing a Sudan’s flag stands in front of a burning pile of tires during a protest against prospect of military rule in Khartoum, Sudan, October 21, 2021. A coup took place four days later. (Source: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah//File Photo)
Throughout the night of October 25, 2021, reports of civilian leaders of Sudan’s transitional government being arrested started circulating on social media. Allegations of a military coup, which had been brewing for weeks, were soon confirmed when the verified Facebook page of the Ministry of Culture and Information reported that government officials had been arrested by joint military forces. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was detained after refusing to issue a statement endorsing the military coup.
Hours after the information ministry’s Facebook page announced the coup, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan announced a state of emergency across the country and dissolved the transitional government. In a televised address, al-Burhan stated that an “independent and fair representative government” would assume power until one is elected in 2023, while simultaneously suspending articles of the constitution.
As noted by the human rights group Access Now, internet and telecommunication access has been disrupted since the coup. Despite very limited access to social media, footage of protesters mobilizing started appearing on social media almost immediately after rumors of a coup spread.
On Facebook, a user named Mohammed Abu Al-Dahab posted a live video of protesters chanting, creating roadblocks, and burning debris outside the military armory complex in Khartoum before the information ministry page confirmed a coup had taken place.
In another stream from the page New Sudan NSS, pre-dawn protests also showed evidence of cars transporting tires with smoke rising in the background from multiple locations. Protesters chanted that the people are strong, and going back is impossible.
Large protests appeared to focus on areas surrounding the General Command of the Armed Forces. In a video that was widely circulated on social media, soldiers can be seen guarding the entrance to General Command, with a large group of protesters singing and chanting. The situation appeared to remain non-violent, with soldiers carrying AK-47s and protesters maintaining their distance.
Live footage from New Sudan NNS, which also circulated in clip form on Twitter, showed protesters engaging with soldiers guarding roads in Khartoum’s Burri Alhamas neighborhood, near the Bee Petroleum station. The soldiers appear to be wearing a combination of different military uniforms used by the Sudanese military, including the sand-colored uniform favored by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces. Though the situation did not escalate during the footage — at one point a protester told the group to move back — at least one protester died in the Burri Alhamas neighborhood on October 25.
Although large crowds gathered in the morning of October 25, footage of injured citizens and evidence of shooting only started to emerge in the afternoon local time. One particularly dramatic set of videos showed a crowd of people in a street parallel to the airport running from gunfire. The cameraperson zoomed in on a construction site, where muzzle flashes appeared to be visible. The gunmen would have had a clear line of sight down the street through which the crowd was fleeing from this location.
In another video, armed men were seen congregating on the same street in an open lot north of the construction site.
A similar event unfolded a few blocks north in the Burri Alhamas neighborhood, which borders the Bee Petroleum gas station where armed men had previously been recorded blocking the northbound highway. A 97-second video captured a first-person view of a crowd fleeing gunfire in an area south of the Burri Alhamas mosque. As the gunfire intensified, the crowd fled in an eastward direction to apparent safety.
The Burri Alhamas neighborhood was allegedly the site of several other casualties. One video with footage too graphic to include here surfaced showing a person with severe trauma to the face lying behind the car, allegedly in this area south of the Burri Alhamas mosque. Another set of images emerged of a man in the hospital with bullet wounds in his right thigh, which were allegedly sustained near the mosque as well.
Meanwhile, footage emerged of armed men in a pickup truck pulling into the street from a fenced area by the airport and opening fire in an undetermined direction, just south of the Bee Petroleum gas station where protesters had previously confronted military personnel.
Sometime near 5pm local time, Mohammed Abu Al-Dahab went live on Facebook again. At one point, protesters and soldiers can be seen walking down Al Qiyad Street, away from the Bee Petroleum gas station towards the General Command. Briefly, a heavy machine gun, likely a DShK or variant thereof, can be see mounted on an armored vehicle. A few minutes later, gunshots can be heard as a group of protesters starts running away from the source of the shooting.
Other footage circulated throughout the day showing soldiers and members of the Rapid Support Forces attacking civilians. One particular video showed soldiers in red berets and different uniforms beating a woman walking down the street. Other videos captured soldiers attacking passing civilians, seemingly at random, and beating them with sticks and whips.
As protests continued on Tuesday, October 26, videos of soldiers openly firing live ammunition at groups of protesters circulated on Facebook. Some soldiers appear to be firing into the air, while others look to be firing into the crowd. The shooting took place near the south-western corner of Khartoum Airport.
While the majority of eyewitness media spread on social media platforms following the coup appears to have been legitimate, several posts recycled old footage, primarily imagery from protests that occurred in 2019.
One particular Facebook page posted a pair of identical images of an injured person being assisted by a protester. The caption, translated into English, stated “Martyrs have fallen before the General Command.” The picture was posted after the Culture and Information Ministry page reported soldiers targeting protesters with live ammunition. The image circulating on Facebook, however, was taken in 2019, according to AFP. Despite the AFP fact-check and a warning label from Facebook stating the post was misleading, the image was shared more than 500 times.
At the time of publishing, the situation in Sudan remains volatile. Over 100 protesters have reportedly been injured, with footage of bloodied civilians spreading on social media. At least seven people are confirmed dead. Multiple Sudanese civil society organizations have called for continued civil disobedience, and protesters remain on the streets. Internet and telecommunication services are still disrupted, with al-Burhan promising to gradually restore connectivity. The coup leader now heads a military council that, if nothing else changes, claims will rule the country until Sudan’s elections scheduled for July 2023.