KHARTOUM, Sep 27 – Sudanese poured into the streets after Friday prayers in a fifth day of demonstrations against fuel price hikes that have seen dozens shot dead and calls for the government’s overthrow.
The price hikes have sparked the largest protests of Omar al-Bashir’s 24 year rule, as young activists have invoked chants from the Arab Spring to call for the president’s downfall and security forces have been accused of gunning down more than 50 people.
Activists had called for stepped up protests after the weekly Muslim prayers, and security forces responded with a massive deployment on the streets of the capital and other areas.
Around 2,000 protesters marched in Omdurman, the capital’s twin city, chanting anti-army slogans and calling for a halt to fuel price hikes, witnesses and an AFP correspondent said.
Police deployed in large numbers and watched from a distance as the demonstrators marched down a main thoroughfare chanting “Down to the army’s power” and “No to price hikes.”
Meanwhile, soldiers stood guard outside Khartoum petrol stations as long lines of cars waited to fill up after several stations were torched or shut down in recent days.
Internet access was cut for the second time this week, schools have been ordered closed until Monday and most shops remain shuttered, deepening the sense of crisis and sending residents scrambling to stock up on supplies.
“I want my family to have what we need because we don’t know where this is all going,” said Ahmad Hassan, 50, as he stocked up on canned goods.
Siding with the youth activists, the Al-Umma party of main opposition leader and former premier Sadeq al-Mahdi called for “the Sudanese people to step up the protests.”
Trying to maintain a blackout on the unrest, the authorities seized or blocked publication of three newspapers Friday, even though they are considered pro-government, journalists said.
The Al-Sudani and Al-Majhar al-Siassi dailies were seized at the printing press, they said, while Al-Watan was ordered not to print after covering the unrest in its Thursday edition.
The African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies and London-based Amnesty International said 50 people were killed after being shot in the head or chest on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Local sources and activists have put the figure much higher, in excess of 100,” a joint statement said.
They also expressed “deep concern” about reports of hundreds being arrested and urged the authorities “to ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill treatment.”