Sudan defends crackdown

2013-09-30 18:05
Sudanese protestors throw stones at a petrol station in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman during a demonstration after the government announced steep price rises for petroleum products. (AFP)

Sudanese protestors throw stones at a petrol station in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman during a demonstration after the government announced steep price rises for petroleum products. (AFP)

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Khartoum - Sudan pointed to "fake" victim photos and foreign interference on Monday as it defended a deadly crackdown on protesters, which drew fresh criticism from inside the ruling party as rallies continued.

With reporters complaining of stepped up censorship, numerous videos and photographs purporting to show bloodied victims have circulated on YouTube, Facebook and other social media since the demonstrations began eight days ago, sparked by a rise in fuel prices.

"Most of the pictures on social media websites are from Egypt," Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamed told a news conference.

Authorities say 34 people have died since petrol and diesel prices jumped more than 60% on 23 September, sending thousands into the streets in the worst urban unrest in the history of 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 AFP on condition of anonymity.

In Egypt, hundreds of people have been killed since the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi on 3 July.

Hamed said "criminal" attacks - separate from the peaceful protests - had been launched on police 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," where a decade-long insurgency has raged.

Students teargassed

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.

Eight days after demonstrations began in a rural area south of the capital, rallies continued on Monday.

Police fired tear gas into the campus of Ahfad University for Women, where between 150 and 200 students were demonstrating "against the government and things like that," university president Gasim Badri told AFP.

He said police did not enter the campus in Khartoum's twin city Omdurman but lobbed tear gas from outside.

In the town of Atbara north of the capital, police used tear gas against about 400 demonstrators, witnesses there said.

Late Sunday around 1 000 people marched in Khartoum calling for the government's overthrow after a ceremony mourning those gunned down last week, witnesses said.

The rally began in the wealthy Mansheeya neighbourhood, which was home to Salah Mudathir, 28, a pharmacologist shot dead during a protest on Friday.

A million Salahs

"Freedom! Freedom!" they shouted, according to the witnesses.

"A million Salahs for a new dawn!" they called out in a reference to the dead man.

They also demanded the fall of the regime, echoing calls made by demonstrators during the 2011 Arab Spring revolts, which toppled long serving rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

A senior official in Sudan's ruling party spoke out against the "unnecessary" deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters, saying the government should have instead encouraged dialogue.

"The fact that so many have died points to the degree of violence," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity, in comments that reflect divisions within the governing National Congress Party (NCP).

"I believe it was unnecessary to repress the peaceful demonstrators. Peaceful demonstration is a constitutional right."

Solutions to the economy and other challenges "can't be done by a limited number of people within the NCP, the government," he said.

Read more on:    omar al-bashir  |  sudan  |  east africa

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