Sudanese security forces on Friday fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who marched after noon prayers in Khartoum as protests against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir’s 30-year-old rule widened.
Protests against the government first flared last month and have posed the most serious challenge yet to al-Bashir, a former army general who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in the Darfur region.
At least 22 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in the protests, which were sparked by anger over rising food prices and cash shortages, but quickly turned against al-Bashir’s government. The crackdown drew a rare rebuke from the state-funded Sudanese National Commission for Human Rights.
Friday’s protests appeared to have drawn more people than before and were more widespread. In previous weeks the protests began only after sundown.
Reuters witnesses said that security forces used tear gas against dozens of demonstrators in al-Halfaya Bahri, in the south of Khartoum, and against a separate demonstration by dozens of people emerging from Sayed Abdel Rahman Mosque in Omdurman, which sits on the other side of the Nile River from the capital.
Security forces chased the demonstrators into side streets, but there were no immediate reports of casualties, the witnesses said.
In Omdurman, army forces on minitrucks with automatic guns were seen guarding a gas station.
In a separate incident, witnesses said that hundreds of demonstrators emerged from a mosque known to be affiliated with al-Bashir’s government in the Jabra district of southern Khartoum chanting: “The people want the fall of the regime.”
Footage posted on social media appeared to show a stream of demonstrators passing by the mosque while chanting derogatory slogans against al-Bashir’s Islamist ideology-based administration. The authenticity of the recording could not immediately be verified.
North of Khartoum, demonstrators blocked the main road linking the capital to the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, witnesses said, without giving any further details.
Three demonstrators were killed during protests on Thursday and Amnesty International accused security forces of chasing injured victims into Omdurman Hospital.
Authorities said that they had set up a commission to investigate the incident.
In a strongly worded statement, the human rights commission slammed the attack on Omdurman Hospital and called for a swift investigation into the deaths of citizens.
“We look with great regret at the use of live ammunition against unarmed civilians,” it said. “We also express deep concern over the use of tear gas within the confines of the Omdurman hospital, which has led to harming the patients, those accompanying them and of health practitioners.”
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 US in October 2017 lifted 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan, but many investors continue to shun a country still listed by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 coup and has won successive elections that his critics said were neither fair nor free.
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