Sudan is citing “fake” victim photographs and foreign interference in defense of a deadly crackdown on protesters, which drew fresh criticism from inside the ruling Sudanese National Congress Party (NCP) as rallies continued.
With reporters complaining of stepped-up censorship, numerous videos and photos purporting to show bloodied victims have circulated on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites since the demonstrations began eight days ago, sparked by a rise in fuel prices.
“Most of the pictures on social media Web sites are from Egypt,” Sudanese Minister of the Interior Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamed told a news conference on Monday, where he and other officials were confronted by a local reporter.
“Why are you always telling lies? The people are killed by NCP militia,” Bahram Abdelmoneim of Al Youm Al Taly newspaper said to the officials.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday met with his Khartoum counterpart, Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Karti, in Washington, but failed to repeat strong US criticism of the deadly crackdown on protestors.
On Friday, US Department of State spokeswoman Jen Psaki criticized what she called a “brutal crackdown” by Khartoum.
However, in Kerry’s meeting with Karti, the crackdown was “not a topic,” Psaki said.
The two men “discussed the importance of peace between Sudan and South Sudan and the need to end the conflicts in Darfur, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan,” she said, as well as the need to allow humanitarian access to protect civilians.
However, British Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds said he was “shocked and saddened” by the reports that Sudan’s security forces had used excessive force.
“I urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint and I call on the Sudanese government to cease the use of live ammunition immediately,” he said in a statement.
Authorities say 34 people have died since petrol and diesel prices jumped more than 60 percent on Sept. 23, sending thousands into the streets in the worst urban unrest in the history of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s 24-year reign.
Activists and international human rights groups said at least 50 people were gunned down, most of them in the greater Khartoum area.
The real toll was difficult to determine, but “could be as much as 200,” a foreign diplomat told reporters on condition of anonymity.
Khartoum Governor Abdel Rahman al-Khidir told the news conference that police only opened fire to defend their stations.
Hamed said “criminal” attacks separate from the peaceful protests had been launched on police facilities and petrol stations.
“We know that overseas foundations are supporting these criminal activities,” he said, adding that about 700 people have now been arrested. “They used the same tactics that the Darfur rebels are using in Darfur.”
Analyst Magdi El Gizouli has dismissed as “nonsense” government suggestions of rebel links to protests in the impoverished country, where people have endured two years of soaring prices.
A witness to one shooting recounted how plainclothes security officers in a pickup truck suddenly drove up to a protest in the greater Khartoum area.
An officer quickly opened fire with a handgun, wounding one demonstrator before their truck fled the scene, the witness said.
Eight days after demonstrations began in a rural area south of the capital, rallies continued on Monday.
About 200 called for freedom on Monday night as they marched through the streets of Khartoum’s Burri area for a third day to express support for the “martyr” Salah Sanhouri, 28, a pharmacist.
He was shot dead during a protest on Friday, they said.
In Khartoum’s twin city, Omdurman, witnesses said that about 300 people demonstrated at the main bus station until police tear gassed them.
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