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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 22 January 2019

Sudan police fire tear gas as protesters press on with demos

Turmoil sparked by bread-price rises pose challenge to President Omar Al Bashir's rule

Hundreds of protesters are marching again in and around Sudan's capital city, Khartoum. AP
Hundreds of protesters are marching again in and around Sudan's capital city, Khartoum. AP

Sudanese police fired teargas on Sunday at crowds of anti-government protesters in several cities, including Khartoum, as organisers pushed for more nationwide rallies against President Omar Al Bashir this week.

Deadly protests have rocked Sudan since December 19 after a government decision to triple the price of bread.

The protests swiftly escalated into nationwide rallies, widely regarded as the biggest threat to Mr Bashir’s rule in his three decades in power.

The authorities say 24 people have been killed so far, while Human Rights Watch put the death toll at 40, saying children and medical staff are among the dead.

On Sunday, protesters took to the streets in the capital’s Bahari district but were quickly confronted by riot police, witnesses told AFP.

Some residents took protesters inside their homes and offered them juice as teargas canisters struck their buildings, a witness said.

Later on Sunday, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, a group that is leading the rallies, claimed live ammunition was used in Bahari but did not say who fired the shots.

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A panel of doctors within the association said eight people were hurt at the Khartoum rally including “two from live ammunition”.

Khartoum police could not be reached for comment.

Sudanese officials, including Mr Bashir, blamed the violence on “thugs” and “conspirators”.

Protest organisers have called for near-daily demonstrations across the country, calling it a ‘Week of Uprising’.

On Sunday, protests also broke out in the western, war-torn region of Darfur.

Police fired teargas at demonstrators who took to the streets of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur and in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.

Darfur, a region the size of France, has experienced violence since 2003 when rebels took up arms against Khartoum, accusing it of economic and political marginalisation.

Mr Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989, has been charged by International Criminal Court with genocide and war crimes committed in Darfur.

Rights groups say more than 1,000 people have been arrested since the protests began, including opposition leaders, activists, journalists and demonstrators.

The crackdown has drawn international criticism, with countries like Britain, Norway, Canada and the US warning Khartoum that its actions could damage their ties.

Although the turmoil was triggered by the rise in the price of bread, Sudan has faced a mounting economic crisis over the past year, led by an acute shortage of foreign currency.

Repeated shortages of food and fuel have been reported across cities, and the cost of food and medicine has more than doubled.

Mr Bashir and other officials have blamed the US for Sudan’s economic problems.

The US imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997 that was lifted in October 2017. It restricted Sudan from conducting international business and financial transactions.

But critics of Mr Bashir say his government’s mismanagement of important sectors and its huge spending on fighting rebellions in Darfur and areas near the South Sudan border have been stoking economic trouble for years.

Updated: January 14, 2019 05:52 PM

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