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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 February 2019

Sudanese police shoot at mourners for slain protester

Victim was one of three people who died of gunshot wounds during anti-government protests on Thursday

Sudanese protesters hold an anti-government demonstration in Khartoum on January 17, 2019. Reuters
Sudanese protesters hold an anti-government demonstration in Khartoum on January 17, 2019. Reuters

Sudanese police fired live ammunition on Friday at mourners outside the home of one of three people fatally shot during anti-government protests on Thursday, witnesses said.

About 2,000 mourners had gathered in the Burri neighbourhood of Khartoum where the man, Moawia Othman, 60, died early on Friday from a gunshot wound he sustained on Thursday night. A child and a doctor were also shot dead in Burri on Thursday, the Sudan Doctors' Committee, a group linked to the opposition, said.

Before police opened fire, some mourners had pelted police nearby with rocks and damaged a police car, a witness said. The mourners blocked a main street with stones and chanted "There is no God but God!" and "Martyr! Martyr!" Several were wailing and crying and some were carrying Sudanese flags.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The protests on Thursday marked the start of a fifth week of demonstrations against President Omar Al Bashir's 30-year rule. The official death toll from the protests stands at 24 but rights group Amnesty International says more than 40 people have been killed.

Protests also broke out in six other cities on Thursday in some of the most widespread disturbances since the unrest began on December 19. The protests were triggered by price rises and cash shortages, but have quickly developed into demonstrations against Mr Al Bashir's government.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of a government-affiliated private hospital in Burri, where activists said the doctor and child died of their injuries. The protests continued into early Friday. Demonstrators chanted: "Freedom" and "Until the morning, we're staying," video footage showed.

In the Thursday's most violent clashes, police in Burri fired rubber bullets and tear gas and chased demonstrators with batons, witnesses said. Several people were overcome with tear gas, while some were hit by rubber bullets and others beaten.

Hundreds of young men and women blocked streets and alleyways with burning tyres, witnesses said. Some hurled stones at security forces. Many recited the chant that has become the rallying call of demonstrators: "Down, that's it," to send the message that their only demand is Mr Al Bashir's fall.

Demonstrators also taunted security forces by ululating each time a stone-throwing demonstrator hit police, witnesses said.

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A live video posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed security forces pointing guns at protesters in Burri. A sound of gunfire could be heard.

In the video, a demonstrator yells: "Why are you shooting?" as protesters, some wearing masks as protection from tear gas, duck to avoid the firing. It was not clear if rubber or live bullets were used. One man who appeared to be injured and had spots of blood on his shirt was carried away.

"There were people shooting at us," one protester said.

He said he saw five people fall to the ground, adding he was not sure if they were hit by rubber or live bullets. He said he saw a few other injured people being carried away. Security forces blocked the area and the wounded were unable to reach a hospital, he said.

Instead they were being treated in a makeshift emergency room inside a home. At some point, security forces approached the makeshift clinic and fired tear gas into it as the wounded were being treated, three witnesses said.

A police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the witnesses' account of the Burri clashes.

Hundreds also protested in Al Qadarif, Atbara, Port Sudan, Al Dueim, Omdurman and Al Ubayyid, drawing tear-gas volleys from police, witnesses said.

Mr Al Bashir has blamed the protests on foreign "agents" and said the unrest would not lead to a change in government, challenging his opponents to seek power through the ballot box.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Thursday that she was deeply worried about reports of excessive use of force by Sudanese security forces.

"The government needs to ensure that security forces handle protests in line with the country’s international human rights obligations by facilitating and protecting the right to peaceful assembly,” said Ms Bachelet, a former Chilean president.

Sudan has struggled economically since losing three-quarters of its oil output - its main source of foreign currency - when South Sudan seceded in 2011, keeping most of the oilfields.

The protests began in Atbara, in north-eastern Sudan, a month ago when several thousand people took to the streets after the government raised bread and fuel prices to reduce the cost of subsidies.

Mr Al Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges, which he denies, of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region, had been lobbying to be removed from the list of countries, along with Syria, Iran and North Korea, that Washington considers state sponsors of terrorism.

That listing has prevented an influx of investment and financial aid that Sudan was hoping for when the United States lifted sanctions in 2017, according to economists.

Sudan has been rapidly expanding its money supply in an attempt to finance its budget deficit, causing spiralling inflation and a steep decline in the value of its currency.

Sudan's inflation rate increased to 72.94 per cent in December from 68.93 percent in November, state news agency SUNA said

Updated: January 18, 2019 04:28 PM

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