x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Sudan protest death toll rises to 27

Thousands of protesters torched cars and petrol stations in central areas of the capital, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air. Internet access went down across the country, although the cause was not immediately clear.

Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM // At least 27 people have been killed in protests in Khartoum over fuel subsidy cuts announced by President Omar Al Bashir, a medical source said on Thursday, in the worst outbreak of unrest in Sudan’s capital in years.

Thousands of protesters torched cars and petrol stations in central areas of the capital on Wednesday, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air. Internet access went down across the country, although the cause was not immediately clear.

Mr Al Bashir, though facing a warrant for his arrest issued by the International Criminal Court, has avoided the unrest that unseated rulers in Arab states like Egypt and Tunisia; but anger has risen over inflation and corruption.

A UN official said Mr Al Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 coup, would not be coming to New York for a meeting of the General Assembly. The President had said on Sunday he planned to attend and had booked a hotel.

Relatives and medics said at least six people were killed in Wednesday’s protests, but a medical source at a hospital in Khartoum’s Omdurman neighbourhood, asking not to be named, said: “There were 27 people killed in the protests and their bodies are at the Omdurman hospital.”

The Arab-African country has suffered armed insurgencies in its poor peripheral regions for decades, but the wealthier central areas along the Nile including Khartoum are usually relatively isolated from unrest.

Similar protests broke out in June last year after some fuel subsidies were cut, but they fizzled after a security crackdown. This round of unrest started on Monday after the government announced another set of cuts to fuel subsidies.

The secession of oil-producing South Sudan in 2011 hurt Sudan’s economy, depriving it of about three-quarters of the crude production it relied on for state revenues and foreign currency used to import food.

Mr Al Bashir, announcing the cuts on Sunday, said the subsidies posed a danger to the entire Sudanese economy.

Reuters