UPDATE 1-Sudan army commander says bank security force killed protesting children - SUNA

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CAIRO, Aug 1 (Reuters) - A senior Sudanese army commander said a security force assigned to guard a bank in El-Obeid was responsible for killing children protesting in the city earlier this week, the official SUNA news agency reported on Thursday.

At least six people were killed at a rally in El-Obeid, 400 km (250 miles) southwest of Khartoum on Monday, with at least four children among them.

They died when security forces broke up a student protest in the city, opposition-linked doctors said. The teenagers were rallying against fuel and bread shortages, residents said.

Sudan has been in turmoil since the overthrow of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

"The force which was guarding the Sudanese French Bank fired the live rounds that led to the regrettable losses in the state of North Kordofan," Lieutenant General Jamal Aldin Omar Ibrahim, head of the Transitional Military Council’s security committee, was quoted as saying by SUNA.

He was reading a statement before officials in El-Obeid, the agency said. The bank guards were a government security force.

The Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) coalition of opposition groups accused military and paramilitary forces of opening fire on the high school pupils.

However, a regional governor said "infiltrators" had diverted a peaceful demonstration from its course, attacking one bank branch and trying to attack another.

Ibrahim also blamed a teachers' committee associated with the Sudanese Professionals' Association (SPA), a major part of the FFC, for the El-Obeid killings. Some committee members had incited the students to leave their schools and take part in the protests, the agency quoted him as saying.

An African Union mediator called on Wednesday for a speedy trial for those responsible for shooting the children.

The SPA, which spearheaded the protest movement that led to the overthrow of Bashir, condemned the incident and called for nationwide protests on Thursday.

Monday's killings interrupted talks between the military council and the opposition on how to run the country.

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Negotiators from both sides have, however, made progress on the sticking points in discussions on the transition from military rule and are set to hold direct talks within 48 hours, an opposition leader said on Wednesday. (Reporting by Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Mahmoud Mourad; Editing by Hugh Lawson, Giles Elgood and Andrew Cawthorne)

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