x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Sudan simmers as rights groups say at least 50 protesters are dead

Activists had called for stepped-up protests against a fuel price hike after weekly prayers, and security forces responded with a massive deployment on the streets of the capital and elsewhere.

KHARTOUM // Sudanese security forces are accused of killing more than 50 people since protests began against president Omar Al Bashir and they fired on demonstrators again on Friday as they poured on to the streets to protests against fuel price hikes.

Al Arabiya television reported that police had opened fire on Friday before Sudanese authorities shut down the broadcaster’s office in Khartoum.

Al Arabiya said on its website that the closure- the first such move against a foreign media outlet since the protests began — came hours after its Khartoum correspondent was summoned for a meeting.

The price hikes have sparked the largest protests of Mr Al Bashir’s 24-year rule, as young activists have invoked chants from the Arab Spring to call for the president’s downfall.

Activists had called for stepped-up protests after weekly prayers, and security forces responded with a massive deployment on the streets of the capital and elsewhere.

About 2,000 protesters marched in Omdurman, the capital’s twin city, chanting anti-army slogans and calling for a halt to fuel price hikes, witnesses asaid.

Meanwhile, soldiers stood guard outside Khartoum petrol stations as long lines of cars waited to fill up after several stations were torched or shut down in recent days.

Internet access was cut for the second time this week, schools have been ordered closed until Monday and most shops remain shuttered, deepening the sense of crisis and sending residents scrambling to stock up on supplies.

“I want my family to have what we need because we don’t know where this is all going,” said Ahmad Hassan, 50, as he stocked up on canned goods.

Authorities also seized or blocked publication of three newspapers earlier on Friday, even though the outlets are considered pro-government, journalists said.

The Al Sudani and Al Majhar Al Siassi dailies were seized at the printing press, they said, while Al Watan was ordered not to print after covering the unrest in its Thursday edition.

The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies and Amnesty International said 50 people were killed after being shot in the head or chest on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“Local sources and activists have put the figure much higher, in excess of 100,” they said.

They also expressed “deep concern” about reports of hundreds being arrested and urged the authorities “to ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment”.

“Shooting to kill — including by aiming at protesters’ chests and heads — is a blatant violation of the right to life,” said Lucy Freeman, Africa deputy director at Amnesty International.

Police confirmed there had been 29 fatalities after the rioting started on Monday, without giving further details. Medics and other sources said most had been shot dead.

The European Union said it was “concerned” about the reported deaths and called on all sides to avoid further violence.

Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by Bloomberg News