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Fuel riots in Sudan turn violent

25 September 2013, 20:28

Khartoum - Sudanese security forces on Wednesday fired tear gas to disperse dozens of protesters who demonstrated and torched a police station in northern Khartoum, where at least two people have died in three days of rioting over the lifting of fuel subsidies.

Officials condemned the protests as acts of sabotage, describing them as "premeditated."

Wednesday's protests took place in several areas of Kadro district, 15 miles from the capital's city centre, where protesters blocked roads using lengths of pipe and burning tires. They also attacked a police station.

The riots that began in the state of Gezira, south of Khartoum, have turned into a call for the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled the country for more than two decades. The rioting started after Sudan's Council of Ministers decided to lift the subsidies, immediately doubling prices of petrol and fuel.

The semi-official Sudan Media Centre on Wednesday quoted Gezira governor Al-Zubair Bashir Taha as saying that aside from police stations, riots there targeted power and gas stations, banks, shops and private property. Police are tracking down the "saboteurs," he said.

A day earlier, his deputy, Mohammed al-Kamil Fadallah said the civilians killed in violence in the regional capital of Wad Medani were a student and a bus driver in their early 20s.

The SMC also quoted the deputy head of the Sudanese parliament, Samiya Ahmed Mohammed, as saying she hopes the "opposition understands the measures with objectivity."

Similar protests

She also criticised the government for not implanting the measures "gradually" and expressed support for peaceful protests but rejected "acts of sabotage" to state institutions.

Sudan's lost most of its main oil-producing territory when South Sudan broke off as an independent state in 2011. In November last year, The International Monetary Fund had urged Sudan to cut fuel subsidies, pointing out that in 2011 they amounted to more than three-quarters of the fragile economy's tax revenues.

An initial attempt by the government to cut subsidies sparked similar protests but they were quelled by a heavy crackdown on protesters, activists and journalists.

Al-Bashir is wanted by International Criminal Court for alleged crimes linked to the conflict in Sudan's western region of Darfur where an estimated 300 000 people have died since 2003 due to fighting between government-backed tribes and rebels.

Al-Bashir received an invitation to attend the UN General Assembly and applied for a visa to enter the US. The State Department said Washington received a visa request but that before going to UN headquarters, al-Bashir should present himself to the ICC.

Sudan condemned Washington's response, and Sudan's Foreign Ministry said the US is "not qualified ... to offer sermons and advice" on international law and human rights. Sudan's statement also criticised US support for Israel, and called on Washington to swiftly grant al-Bashir a visa.

- AP


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