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Police fire tear gas to break up Sudan protests

Sudanese protesters run away from tear gas fired by security forces during a demonstration in Khartoum on December 31, 2018 © AFP/File

Khartoum, Sudan, Jan 5 – Sudanese police fired tear gas on Friday to break up protests in the capital Khartoum and its twin city of Omdurman, witnesses said, after demonstrators took to the streets following midday prayers.

Anti-government rallies have rocked cities across Sudan since December 19 when protests first broke out over a government decision to raise the price of bread.

Protesters chanting “freedom, peace and justice” poured out of a mosque in Omdurman, parallel to Khartoum on the west bank of the Nile, witnesses said.

Police used tear gas to break up that demonstration and a separate protest in north Khartoum, witnesses said.

Late on Friday, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, a group including doctors, teachers and engineers which has been organising some of the protests, said one of its leaders had been arrested.

Its spokesman, Mohamed Naji al-Assam, had been arrested on Friday evening and his whereabouts were unknown, it said in a statement.

On Thursday, security forces arrested prominent journalist and columnist Faisal Mohamed Salih from his office in Khartoum, his relatives told AFP.

Several opposition leaders, activists and journalists have been arrested as part on an ongoing crackdown by security agents to prevent the spread of protests.

Earlier on Friday, security forces had deployed across key squares in both cities ahead of expected unrest.

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President Omar al-Bashir has told police to abstain from using excessive force against the demonstrators after 19 people, including two security personnel, were killed in clashes.

Rights group Amnesty International says 37 people have been killed in the protests so far.

“Sometimes were are forced to use weapons,” Bashir told a gathering of Sufi leaders late Thursday.

“But then we use them at a very minimum level and that too to maintain security and prevent killings of others,” he said without elaborating.

Sudan is facing an acute foreign exchange crisis and soaring inflation despite the United States lifting a two-decade trade embargo in 2017.

Inflation is running at 70 percent, while shortages of bread and fuel have regularly hit several cities.

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