Sudanese activists say 5 killed as protests swell

CAIRO (AP) — Sudanese security forces killed at least five protesters over the weekend during what organizers said were some of the largest demonstrations in a nearly four-month campaign to drive President Omar al-Bashir from power.

The protests, which began in December, have swelled since last week’s resignation of Algeria’s long-serving president in the face of similar rallies, giving new hope to Sudanese protesters aiming to end al-Bashir’s nearly 30-year reign.

Security forces have responded with a fierce crackdown, killing at least 60 people since the protests began, according to Physicians for Human Rights, a New York-based rights group. That figure does not include the latest deaths.

The government has said that 32 people have been killed, including police, but hasn’t updated its tally in weeks.

The rallies are being led by the Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of independent professional unions.

Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the SPA, told The Associated Press that four people were killed in the capital city of Khartoum and another protester was killed in the neighboring city of Omdurman on Saturday and Sunday.

The SPA says tens of thousands of people have taken part in protests outside the military headquarters and a presidential residence in Khartoum since Saturday. Footage circulated online showed the protesters chanting “The people want the fall of the regime,” one of the main slogans from the Arab Spring uprisings that swept Middle East and North Africa in 2011.

Other footage showed protesters setting up tents in front of the military headquarters, which also houses the Defense Ministry, on Sunday following a call for a sit-in.

The organizers say protesters hurled stones and security forces used batons, tear gas and live fire to try to disperse the crowds.

The Sudan Doctors Committee, a SPA affiliate, said dozens have been wounded in rallies across the country, many by live ammunition.

The state-run SUNA news agency on Saturday quoted police spokesman General Hashim Abdel-Rahim as saying that one person was killed “during disturbances in Omdurman.” He called the protests “illegal gatherings.”

Sudan’s national defense and security council, headed by al-Bashir, on Sunday said the protesters’ demands should be discussed and called for dialogue to end the crisis, according to SUNA.

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