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Sudan doctors strike as protests enter fifth day

Fresh anti-government protests have erupted in Sudan as doctors said they would go on strike to increase pressure on President Omar al-Bashir.

The demonstrations have been under way for five days
The demonstrations have been under way for five days

An independent group of medics said that from Monday they would focus on treating wounded protesters.

On Saturday Sudan’s main opposition leader said security forces had killed 22 demonstrators. Officials say the toll is lower.

Protests began on Wednesday after bread and fuel price rises were announced.

Over the past year, the cost of some goods has more than doubled, inflation has risen to nearly 70%, the value of the Sudanese pound has fallen sharply and shortages have been reported in cities including the capital Khartoum.

What is the latest?

Footage on social media appeared to show continuing protests in a number of areas.

The Central Sudanese Committee of Doctors said its members had seen protesters in hospitals with gunshot wounds and said there had been a number of deaths and injuries.

On Saturday the authorities arrested 14 leaders of the National Consensus Forces, an opposition coalition, including the grouping’s 85-year-old leader Farouk Abu Issa, a spokesman said.

“We demand their immediate release, and their arrest is an attempt by the regime to stop the street movements,” spokesman Sadiq Youssef said.

What is the opposition saying?

On Saturday Sadiq al-Mahdi, leader of the main opposition Umma party, condemned “armed repression” and said the protests were fuelled by the “deteriorating situation” in the country.

He also called for Mr Bashir’s government to agree a peaceful transfer of power or face a confrontation with the Sudanese people.

“It will be a losing confrontation for the regime, as it will increase its failures and closes its horizons,” the Paris-based Sudan Tribune website quoted him as saying.

Mr al-Mahdi said 22 people had been killed so far
Mr al-Mahdi said 22 people had been killed so far

Mr Mahdi – who was was prime minister from 1966 to 1967 and again from 1986 to 1989 – returned from almost a year in exile on Wednesday.

His government was the last to be democratically elected in the country and was toppled in a 1989 coup launched by Mr al-Bashir, who has since been accused of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s western region of Darfur by the International Criminal Court.

How did the protests begin?

They started in the eastern town of Atbara, where demonstrators burned the offices of Mr Bashir’s National Congress party.

On Thursday officials said six people had died in protests in the town of al-Qadarif and two more in Atbara.

Witnesses said that in some areas the military was not intervening and even appeared to be siding with the demonstrators.

A presidential adviser, Faisal Hassan Ibrahim, said two of those killed in al-Qadarif were soldiers in civilian clothes. He said the protests were being directed by “organised entities”, without giving further details.

Mr Bashir - seen here visiting Syria's President Assad earlier this month - has said he will step down in 2020
Mr Bashir – seen here visiting Syria’s President Assad earlier this month – has said he will step down in 2020

Demonstrations spread to Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman as well as other areas.

On Saturday AFP quoted witnesses as saying police used tear gas and beat protesters calling for Mr Bashir to step down in Wad Madani, south-east of Khartoum.

In El Rahad, south-west of Khartoum, the NCP office and other administrative offices were set ablaze and protesters chanting “no to hunger” were tear-gassed, another witness said.

Why is Sudan’s economy in trouble?

Mr Bashir was accused of sponsoring terrorism by the US in the 1990s and Sudan was placed under a trade embargo.

In 2011 South Sudan seceded from Sudan, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil resources. That followed civil war that cost the lives of 1.5 million people.

Meanwhile a continuing conflict in the western region of Darfur has driven two million people from their homes and killed more than 200,000.

US sanctions were lifted in 2017 but there has been little improvement in the country’s economy since then.

In January this year there were protests in Khartoum and other regions over rises in the price of bread.

In 2016 Mr Bashir told the BBC that he would step down as president in 2020. BBC News.