Doctor and child killed in Sudan anti-Bashir protests as police break up march

Doctor and child killed in Sudan anti-Bashir protests as police break up march
A doctor and a child were killed by gunshots on Thursday in Sudan's capital, as riot police sought to break up a protest of hundreds of people.
4 min read
18 January, 2019
At least 26 people have died in protests that have rocked Sudan since December [AFP]
A doctor and a child were among three killed on Thursday during protests in Sudan's capital, organisers of the anti-government demonstrations said, as police dispersed a crowd of hundreds marching towards the presidential palace.

Officials say at least 26 people have died in protests that have rocked Sudan since they first erupted on 19 December after a government decision to raise the price of bread.

Rights groups estimate as many as 40 have been killed.

The rallies have since escalated into broader demonstrations against President Omar al-Bashir's three decades of iron-fisted rule and triggered deadly clashes with the security forces.

Human rights groups have given a higher death toll, with Amnesty International saying that more than 40 people had been killed and over 1,000 arrested. 

"One doctor and a child (have been) killed in today's demonstrations," the doctors' committee, part of a protest movement spearheaded by the Sudanese Professionals Association, said in a statement late on Thursday.

The committee said the two were killed with "live ammunition" but did not specify who had fired the shots. 

It also said that some other people had sustained gunshot wounds. 

The deaths were confirmed to AFP by the relatives of the two victims. 

Protesters staged a demonstration outside the hospital in Khartoum where their bodies were brought, witnesses said.

"The protests had only been peaceful ones," another witness told The New Arab on condition of anonymity.

"Sudanese people have never used violence in any protest in the history of protests in Sudan. And what has the government done against that? They used violence against our peaceful protests."

A police spokesman could not be reached immediately for comment.

Earlier, demonstrators chanting "freedom, peace, justice" had gathered in central Khartoum and began their march on the presidential palace but riot police quickly confronted them with tear gas, witnesses told AFP.

People also took to the streets in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, in the provincial town of Gadaref and in the agricultural hub of Atbara, where the first protests broke out on December 19.

Protesters pelt rocks

After riot police broke up the march in downtown Khartoum, crowds of residents in the capital's Buri district staged a new rally, witnesses said.

Protesters pelted rocks at riot police who in turn fired tear gas.

Video footage showed some protesters wounded but they were treated by fellow demonstrators. 

People also took to the streets in the Khartoum's northern district of Bahri, where burned tyres and piles of garbage blocked streets to traffic, witnesses said.

Three other protests were staged in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman. 

The Sudanese Professionals Association said the response to Thursday's call for protests had been "above expectations".

"We are calling on the international community to protect peaceful demonstrators as we fear the authorities will use more violence," Mohamed Al-Asbat, a spokesman for the association told AFP by telephone from Paris.

Bashir has blamed the violence during the demonstrations on "conspirators" working against the interests of the country, without identifying them.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday condemned Sudan's "repressive response" to the anti-government demonstrations.

"I am very concerned about reports of excessive use of force, including live ammunition, by Sudanese state security forces during large-scale demonstrations in various parts of the country since 19 December," she said in a statement.

We are calling on the international community to protect peaceful demonstrators as we fear the authorities will use more violence
Mohamed Al-Asbat, The Sudanese Professionals Association


The UN Security Council too called on Sudan to respect the rights of protesters and investigate the violence.

"We are appalled at reports that security forces have used tear gas and violence within hospitals against those being treated and against doctors providing medical assistance," said British Deputy Ambassador Jonathan Allen on Thursday.

Sudan's ambassador Omer Dahab Fadl Mohamed told the council that his government was "fully committed to giving citizens a space to peacefully express their views". 

But he said the authorities would act to "protect lives and public property against sabotage and arson and all other forms of violence perpetrated by some demonstrators".

More than 1,000 people including protesters, journalists, opposition leaders and activists have been arrested in a sweeping crackdown by security agents since the protests erupted.

Despite the tough response, the protest movement has grown to become the biggest threat to Bashir's rule since he took power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.

The protesters accuse Bashir's government of mismanagement of key sectors of the economy and of pouring funds into a military response Sudan can ill afford to rebellions in the western region of Darfur and in areas near the border with South Sudan.

Sudan has suffered from a chronic shortage of foreign currency since the south broke away in 2011, taking with it the lion's share of oil revenues.

That has triggered soaring inflation that has seen the cost of food and medicines more than double, and frequent shortages in major cities, including Khartoum.

A defiant Bashir has dismissed calls for his resignation but acknowledged the country faces economic problems for which a slew of reforms were being planned.

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