KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces fired tear gas on Sunday at several hundred protesters and chased them down side streets, a Reuters witness said, as anti-government protests entered their second month.
Near daily demonstrations set off by a worsening economic crisis have shaken Sudan since Dec 19. Protesters have called for an end to President Omar al-Bashir’s three-decade rule, blaming him for the country’s problems.
Bashir has blamed the unrest and accompanying violence on foreign “agents” and rebels from the western region of Darfur, claims he repeated on Sunday.
In Sunday’s protests demonstrators had blocked Al Arbaeen street, one of the main arteries in Omdurman, across the Nile from the centre of the capital Khartoum. Some raised two fingers in victory signs as tear gas was fired at them.
About 30 trucks carrying security personnel, some in uniform and some in plain clothes, were deployed to the area. Later, smoke could be seen rising above the densely populated streets.
Security forces have used tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition to disperse protests, witnesses say. They have also rounded up hundreds of opposition figures, activists and demonstrators.
The official death toll stands at 26, including two security agents. Rights groups say at least 40 have died.
Speaking at a Sufi religious celebration in a village in White Nile state, south of Khartoum, Bashir said “infiltrators” were responsible for the death of a doctor killed last week in the Burri neighbourhood of Khartoum, as well as other killings.
The opposition-linked Sudan Doctors’ Committee said at the time that the doctor and a child were shot dead by security forces. A 60-year-old man also died from gunshot wounds sustained in Burri. His funeral became a flashpoint for protests on Friday.
The protests are the most sustained challenge to Bashir’s rule since he came to power in a military coup in 1989. Last month, members of parliament from the ruling party backed a constitutional amendment that would allow the 75-year-old to run in an election next year.
“Sudan is governed by the decision of the Sudanese citizen and his decision through the ballot box … after a year it will be the Sudanese people who decide,” said Bashir, dressed in white robes and waving his trademark cane.
“We say to the youth, this country is yours, protect it, and if it goes up in smoke we won’t be refugees, we will die here,” he said.