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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

Chaos in Khartoum as Sudanese forces break up protest against Omar Al Bashir

At least two people reported killed as second attempt to march on the presidential palace is thwarted

Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir arrives at the police headquarters in Khartoum on December 30, 2018. AFP
Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir arrives at the police headquarters in Khartoum on December 30, 2018. AFP

At least two people were killed and six injured when Sudanese security forces broke up a march against President Omar Al Bashir in Khartoum on Sunday, witnesses said.

The protesters died after being shot in the head, while five of the wounded suffered head injuries from tear gas canisters. A doctor was shot in the thigh.

Security forces fired tear gas and shot in the air as hundreds of people gathered at the Alqandoul roundabout in Khartoum, the starting point for a march to the presidential palace to demand that Mr Al Bashir step down. Police were seen firing their weapons as they chased groups of protesters who scattered into surrounding streets.

The protest was the latest in nearly two weeks of nationwide demonstrations that began on December 19 after the government tripled the price of bread. Seventeen protesters and two security personnel have been killed, and more than 200 people were injured, according to the last government toll issued on December 27.

Mr Al Bashir met top police officers in the capital on Sunday and ordered them to avoid excessive force against demonstrators after the United Nations called for an investigation into the deaths and violence during the demonstrations.

"We want to maintain security and we want the police to do that by using less force," the president said.

"We admit that we have economic problems... but they can't be solved by destruction, looting, and theft," he said, referring to the torching of buildings and political offices by protesters in several cities.

However, the suppression of Monday's protest was the most violent so far, witnesses said.

Security forces took up positions in key areas of the capital on Sunday night, while cameras were installed at some locations and all stones were removed from the streets in central Khartoum. Roads leading to the starting point for the march were blocked off by security vehicles.

One of the people killed on Monday was a political activist, while the other was a worker at a restaurant in the area who was watching the protest.

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Read more:

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Sudanese activists vow not to back down against Bashir

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The march was called by the Sudanese Professionals Association, which staged a similar rally on December 25 that was broken up by security forces before the protesters could reach the presidential palace.

"We will march towards the presidential palace calling for President Omar Al Bashir to step down," the group said in statement issued on Sunday night.

Demonstrations were also held in Omdurman and other cities on Monday but without major incident.

The protests are backed by opposition groups but political analysts say they are being driven by deep-rooted anger at nearly three decades of poor governance under Mr Al Bashir.

Sudan is facing an acute foreign exchange crisis and inflation is at 70 per cent, leading to shortages of bread and fuel and a steady increase in the cost of essentials.

Sudan's parliament on Sunday passed a budget for 2019 that increases spending by 39 per cent and guarantees no new taxes or removal of subsidies on items such as wheat, fuel and electricity. The budget includes pay rises for public-sector workers and an increase in the number of families covered by social insurance.

Updated: December 31, 2018 09:33 PM

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