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Sudanese police fire tear gas as protests erupt in Khartoum, Darfur

Sudanese police fire tear gas as protests erupt in Khartoum, Darfur

Sudanese police fired tear gas Sunday at crowds of anti-government protesters in Khartoum and war-torn Darfur as organisers called for more nationwide rallies against President Omar al-Bashir this week.

The human rights body stopped short of identifying those who fired the live ammunition, as well as who may have ordered its use against demonstrators who have been calling for Bashir to step down amid tensions over rising living costs. In previous weeks, the protests began only after sundown.

On Sunday, protesters took to the streets in the capital's Bahari district chanting "peace, peace" and "revolution is the people's choice", but they were quickly confronted by riot police, witnesses told AFP. Witnesses said security forces were breaking into local homes and businesses in pursuit of demonstrators taking refuge there. Also, journalist, Mohamed Abdel-Majed, has been arrested during the protests.

Three demonstrators were killed during protests on Thursday and Amnesty International accused security forces of chasing injured victims into the Omdurman hospital.

Protests broke out in Darfur after calls for rallies there by the Sudanese Professionals' Association, which has spearheaded the demonstrations.

Also, various Sudanese cities including Wad Medani, Port Sudan and Atbara on Sunday have seen similar protests.

Protests that first erupted across Sudan on December 19 over a government decision to triple the price of bread have swiftly escalated into broader demonstrations against al-Bashir's three-decade rule.

The authorities say at least 22 people, including two security personnel, have been killed during the protests, but rights groups have put the death toll much higher.

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The call to take to the streets was backed up by several opposition groups.

So far, the Sudanese doctors and pharmacists have entered into an open strike that is expected to be followed by similar strikes of the teachers, engineers and lawyers.

Although the immediate trigger for the protests was the increase in the price of bread, Sudan has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year, partially caused by an acute shortage of foreign currency.

Shortages of fuel and food have hit several cities, including Khartoum.

The demonstration was the first of its kind in Darfur since the unrest began.

The US imposed a trade embargo on Khartoum in 1997 that was lifted only in October 2017.

In a joint statement on Tuesday last week, the United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Canada condemned the violence and said Sudan's "actions and decisions over the coming weeks will have an impact on the engagement of our governments and others in the coming months and years", referring to ongoing efforts by the USA and UK to normalise relations with Sudan.

Numerous protesters were women who wore masks to protect themselves from tear gas as they whistled and clapped in the streets of Bahari, the hub of Sunday's demonstration, witnesses said. It restricted Sudan from conducting worldwide business and financial transactions.