Security forces fire tear gas as more protests hit Sudanese cities

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KHARTOUM   –     Security forces fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who marched after noon prayers in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on Friday to demand that President Omar al-Bashir step down from 30 years in power.

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

In previous weeks, demonstrations have begun only after sundown and the number of people at this Friday’s protests appeared smaller than in the past.

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

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

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

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

Footage posted 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, witnesses said demonstrators blocked the main road linking the capital to the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, witnesses said, without giving any further details.

Since Dec. 19, Sudan has been rocked by almost daily protests sparked by rising food prices and cash shortages amid a deepening financial crisis. They have since turned against Bashir’s nearly 30 years in office.

At least 22 people have been killed so far, including two security personnel, according to official figures. Hundreds have also been injured and hundreds more have been arrested.

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.

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

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

Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup but became president winning successive elections that his critics say are neither fair nor free.(Reuters)

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