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Sudan protesters want justice after 8 killed: witnesses

Sudanese protesters called for justice on Wednesday, after at least eight people died in violence unprecedented since Arab Spring-style demonstrations began in mid-June, witnesses said.

The mostly youthful protesters gathered in Nyala, capital of South Darfur state, to vent their anger after the killings during a much larger protest on Tuesday sparked by high prices, the witnesses said.

“We want justice,” they shouted. “We want retribution.”

Police fired tear gas and the sound of gunfire was heard but there were no apparent injuries, the witnesses said, adding protesters set tyres alight in the streets.

They called for the overthrow of the state governor and of the government in Khartoum after the first officially confirmed deaths related to scattered anti-regime protests, which have taken place around Sudan for more than six weeks.

The SUNA news agency quoted police as saying eight citizens were killed during Tuesday’s unrest.

An activist youth movement, Sudan Change Now, accused security forces of firing live ammunition and said 12 citizens, many of them young people, were killed.

Police did not give the cause of death but said officers used a “low level of force” to control the situation after demonstrators burned a petrol station and police facilities in Nyala.

The demonstrators had stoned government buildings and burned tyres during Tuesday’s rally, a witness said.

Some activists in the capital Khartoum have said that although tear gas, rubber bullets and beatings have been commonly used against protesters, the government fears creating a martyr.

In 1964, the death of student Ahmed al-Qureshi sparked Khartoum’s “October Revolution” which brought down the military government then in power.

During an economic crisis in 1985, huge crowds in the capital marched in an uprising which led to the bloodless overthrow of president Gaafar al-Nimeiry.

Sudanese proudly point to this history which occurred long before the Arab Spring revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and elsewhere since late 2010.

However, an analyst on Wednesday doubted the Darfur killings would be the spark for wider protests, partly because Darfuris are looked down upon by others in what has become a society divided on ethnic and other lines.

“The current government for many years just increased the divide,” said the analyst, asking not to be named.

Banditry, inter-ethnic fighting and clashes between rebel groups and government forces continue in Darfur although violence is much lower than at its peak in 2003 and 2004 after non-Arab ethnic groups rose up against the Khartoum regime.

The United Nations says more than 300,000 people died in Darfur, while the Khartoum government put the death toll at 10,000.

The analyst said that while the central government has generally been “so cautious” in handling the protests, security personnel dispatched on Tuesday may have been edgy and lacking skill.

“If you go to Darfur, you don’t get your best forces. People are less trained, less prepared and they are also frequently much more at risk,” he said.

The South Darfur government said Tuesday’s protest started because students objected to new transport prices but “other groups” joined in to attack government property.

Demonstrations in Sudan began last month when University of Khartoum students voiced opposition to high food prices, starting the longest-running public challenge to the 23-year regime of President Omar al-Bashir.

Protests have dwindled during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on July 20.

But a strike by public transport drivers upset over high fuel prices has added to the burden of Nyala residents.

In other violence, a district chief in North Darfur state died from gunshot wounds after an ambush of his car, official media said.

Carjackings occur relatively frequently in Darfur but such attacks against government officials are rare in Sudan.

There was no indication of who may have carried out the attack.

Signature : NYALA, Sudan (AFP)

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