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Sudan town holds rally for ‘martyrs’ killed in protests

By AFP - Jan 08,2019 - Last updated at Jan 08,2019

Crowds of supporters of the Sudanese president gather in Sudan’s easten city of Kassala on Monday (AFP photo)

KHARTOUM  — Hundreds of protesters on Tuesday staged a ‘‘martyrs’ rally’’ in an eastern Sudanese town to honour those killed in anti-government protests last month, witnesses said.

Deadly protests have rocked Sudan since December 19, when unrest broke out over a government decision to raise the price of bread.

Authorities say at least 19 people including two security personnel have been killed during the demonstrations, but rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

Six people were killed in Al Gadaref, an impoverished agricultural town in eastern Sudan, when protests erupted after a government decision to triple the price of bread from 1 Sudanese pound to 3 (from about 2 to 6 US cents).

On Tuesday, protesters staged what organisers said was a ‘‘martyrs’ rally’’ to mark the deaths in Al Gadaref. 

The main market was shut as demonstrators gathered in the downtown area, chanting slogans such as ‘‘Peace, justice, freedom’’ and ‘‘Revolution is the choice of the people’’.

Demonstrators were confronted by riot police who fired tear gas as protesters prepared to march to the provincial council building, witnesses said.

Groups of protesters managed to reach the compound of the council building and one of their representatives read out a petition calling for President Omar Al Bashir to resign, one witness told AFP by telephone on condition of anonymity.

The protest was organised by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, a group of teachers, doctors and engineers that has spearheaded the ongoing anti-government demonstrations across the country.

Sudanese authorities could not be reached to comment on the rally.

 

‘Appalled’ 

 

More than 800 protesters have been arrested across Sudan since the unrest began, Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said on Monday while describing the current situation as ‘‘calm and stable’’.

Opposition leaders, activists and journalists have also been detained as part of a crackdown to prevent the spread of protests.

Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989, told police last month to use ‘‘less force’’ in their response to demonstrators.

Britain, Norway, the United States and Canada reiterated their concern over the situation in Sudan in a joint statement issued on Tuesday.

‘‘We are appalled by reports of deaths and serious injury to those exercising their legitimate right to protest, as well as reports of the use of live ammunition against protesters,’’ the statement said. 

‘‘We urge the government of Sudan to ensure that a fully transparent and independent investigation into the deaths of protesters takes place as soon as possible, and that those responsible are held to account.’’

It also called on Khartoum to release all those detainees held without charge, warning that the government’s action in the issue ‘‘will have an impact’’ on engagements with the governments of the four countries.

Sudan has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year, led by an acute shortage of foreign currency.

Food and fuel shortages have been regularly reported across several cities, including the capital Khartoum, while the cost of food and medicine has more than doubled.

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