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Friday, January 18, 2019
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Protests in Sudan spread

Sudan protests spreadSudanese security forces fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who marched after noon prayers in Khartoum as protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year-old rule widened.

Anti-government protests first flared last month and pose the most serious challenge yet to Bashir, a former army general wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region.

At least 22 people were killed and hundreds wounded in the protests, sparked by anger over rising food prices and cash shortages but quickly turned against Bashir’s government. The crackdown drew a rebuke from the state-funded human rights commission.

Friday’s protests appeared to draw more people than before and were widespread. In previous weeks protests began only after sundown.

Reuters witnesses said security forces used tear gas against demonstrators in al-Halfaya Bahri in the south of Khartoum and against a separate demonstration by dozens of people emerging from Sayed Abdel Rahman Mosque in Omdurman, on the other side of the River Nile from the capital.

Security forces chased the demonstrators into side streets but there were no immediate reports of casualties, witnesses said.

In Omdurman, army forces on mini-trucks with automatic guns were seen guarding a petrol station.

“DEEP CONCERN”

In a separate incident, witnesses said hundreds of demonstrators emerged from a mosque known to be affiliated to Bashir’s government in the Jabra district of southern Khartoum chanting: “The people want the fall of the regime.”

Footage on social media showed a stream of demonstrators pass by the mosque while chanting derogatory slogans against Bashir’s Islamist-based administration. The authenticity of the recording could not immediately be verified.

North of Khartoum, demonstrators blocked the main road linking the capital to Port Sudan, witnesses said, without giving any further details.

Three demonstrators were killed during protests on Thursday and Amnesty International accused security forces of chasing injured victims into the Omdurman hospital.

Authorities said they had set up a commission to investigate the incident.

In a strongly-worded statement, Sudan’s National Commission for Human Rights slammed the attack on the Omdurman hospital and called for a swift investigation into the deaths of citizens.

“We look with great regret at the use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians...,” it said. “We express deep concern over the use of tear gas in the confines of the Omdurman hospital which has led to harming patients, those accompanying them and health practitioners.”

Sudan’s economy was crippled when the south seceded in 2011, taking much of its oil resources. The crisis deepened since last year, when the country saw brief protests over bread shortages.

The United States lifted 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan in October 2017, but investors continue to shun a country still listed by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup and has won successive elections critics say were neither fair nor free.

 

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