Sudan protesters, police clash as anti-Bashir unrest widens

 Sudan protesters, police clash as anti-Bashir unrest widens

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Stone-throwing Sudanese demonstrators battled security forces in Khartoum on Thursday, witnesses said, and a child and a doctor were reported killed at the start of a fifth week of protests against President Omar al-Bashir's 30-year-old rule.

Protests also broke out in five other cities in some of the most widespread disturbances since unrest began on Dec. 19. The Sudan Doctors' Committee, a group linked to the opposition, said a doctor and a child were killed by gunshot wounds to the head during the violence.

Police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the reported deaths.

The protests were triggered by price rises and cash shortages, but have quickly developed into demonstrations against Bashir.

In the day's most violent clashes, police in Khartoum's Burri neighbourhood fired rubber bullets and tear gas and chased demonstrators with batons, witnesses said. Several people were overcome with tear gas while some were bruised 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 crying call of demonstrators: "Down, that's it," to send the message that their only demand is Bashir's fall.

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

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.

"WHY ARE YOU SHOOTING"

In the video, a demonstrator yelled, "why are you shooting?" as protesters, some wearing masks as protection from tear gas, ducked 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 told Reuters. "They fired rubber bullets."

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 and Al-Ubayyid, drawing tear gas volleys from police, witnesses said.

Security forces have at times used live ammunition to disperse demonstrations. The official death toll stands at 24, including two security forces personnel. Amnesty International has said that more than 40 people have been killed.

BASHIR BLAMES FOREIGN "AGENTS"

"We will continue to protest until the government falls because we want to provide a better life for our children," said a 47-year-old teacher who demonstrated in downtown Khartoum.

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

United Nations 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.

"I am very concerned about reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by Sudanese state security forces..." she said. "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.”

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

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges, which he denies, of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz in Khartoum and Nafisa Eltahir in Dubai; writing by Lena Masri, editing by Mark Heinrich, William Maclean)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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Updated Date: Jan 18, 2019 03:06:36 IST