Khartoum - Troops deployed Sunday in Sudan’s capital ahead of a planned mass protest against the country’s ruling generals, amid international calls for restraint to prevent a new crackdown on demonstrators.

The planned “million-man” march is seen as a test for protest organisers whose movement has been hit by a deadly June 3 raid on a Khartoum sit-in and a subsequent internet blackout that has curbed their ability to mobilise support. Dozens of demonstrators were killed and hundreds wounded when armed men in military fatigues stormed the sit-in outside army headquarters, shooting and beating protesters who had camped there since April 6.

The new protest, expected to start at mid-day, comes at a time when Ethiopia and the African Union (AU) are jointly mediating between the protesters and generals.

The European Union, several Western nations and rights groups have called on the generals to avoid any violence.

On Sunday, the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) deployed in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns in several squares in Khartoum, an AFP correspondent who toured parts of the capital said. Morning traffic was lighter than usual for a Sunday, the first day of the week. Shops stayed shut in areas where protesters were expected.

“I didn’t open my shop as I am worried for the safety of my property, but I’ll stay here and monitor the situation,” said Ahmed Mohamed. On Saturday, RSF chief General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo warned that no “vandalism” would be tolerated during Sunday’s protest.