Sudan finds mass grave thought to be linked to 1998 killings

CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese authorities found a mass grave believed to contain the bodies of dozens of student conscripts who were shot or beaten to death in 1998 after trying to flee a military camp, the country’s top prosecutor said on Monday.

Taj al-Ser Ali al-Hebr told reporters that his office launched an investigation and that some suspects from the government of toppled President Omar al-Bashir fled the country. He did not provide further details.

The conscripts had tried to escape the Ailafoon military camp, some 15 miles southeast of the capital, Khartoum, after their commanders refused to allow them to go home to celebrate a major Muslim holiday.

The Sudanese opposition at that time, known as the National Democratic Alliance, said soldiers shot and beat to death 74 student conscripts, and at least 55 others drowned when their boat capsized on the Blue Nile while they were trying to escape. In total, at least 261 recruits tried to escape the camp, it said.

Al-Bashir’s government said 31 people died.

The National Democratic Alliance said the bodies of 12 students were handed over to their families and 117 others were buried in a mass grave on April 6, 1998. It said autopsies showed that the students had been “beaten with sticks” and shot.

Al-Bashir’s government was believed to have forcibly conscripted men from streets and markets for training to fight an insurgency in South Sudan, which gained independence more than a decade later, in 2011.

In his press conference, al-Hebr said 40 people would be tried over the extremist-backed coup that brought al-Bashir to power in 1989. He did not name them or detail the charges.