KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese police clashed with mourners at the funeral of a 60-year-old man who died on Friday from a gunshot wound as escalating protests against veteran President Omar al-Bashir entered a fifth week.
Demonstrators originally took to the streets from Dec. 19 to complain about bread prices and cash shortages, but the protests quickly turned into calls for an end to Bashir’s 30-year-old rule.
Around 5,000 mourners turned out for the funeral of Moawia Othman, who died early on Friday from gunshot wounds sustained the day before during a demonstration in the Burri neighbourhood of the capital Khartoum.
Some mourners hurled rocks and chanted anti-Bashir slogans, prompting police to fire live ammunition, a Reuters witness said.
Mourners also destroyed a police truck and overturned the vehicle, according to a Reuters witness and footage posted on social media.
Elsewhere, security forces deployed teargas against demonstrators blocking Sahafa Zalat Street, one of Khartoum’s main arteries, and against worshippers leaving a mosque in the adjacent city of Omdurman, on the other side of the River Nile.
Friday’s chaos came after a doctor and child were also shot dead by security forces the day before in the Burri neighbourhood, according to the opposition-linked Sudan Doctors’ Committee, during one of the most intense clashes to date.
A video posted on social media and verified by Reuters showed security forces pointing guns at protesters.
Police, however, denied there had been any live fire and said no children were killed in the past two days.
“Police have not used bullets since the events began and until now,” police spokesman Hashem Alihe told reporters, adding only tear gas had been used against “illegal gatherings.”
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was worried about Sudan and exhorted the government to respect rights and restrain from endangering people during rallies.
The demonstrators blocking Sahafa Zalat Street, which runs through densely populated districts, included older people and many women, not just the young men who had dominated protests.
Bashir has blamed the unrest on foreign “agents” and challenged foes to seek power instead through the ballot box.
But the near-daily protests pose one of his most sustained challenges as the ruling party prepares to change the constitution to allow him to seek another term.
The official death toll in five weeks of protests stands at 26, including two security forces personnel.
Rights groups have said over 40 have died.
Sudan is mired in a deep economic crisis that now requires radical reforms or a bailout from friendly nations.
Critics blame years of economic mismanagement.
The government announced an emergency 15-month austerity programme in October, but it still heavily subsidises basic goods. The inflation rate rose to 72.94 percent in December.
Sudan’s economy was also weakened when the south seceded in 2011, taking about three-quarters of the country’s oil wealth.
The United States lifted 20-year-old trade sanctions on Sudan in 2017. But many investors continue to shun a country still listed by Washington as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court over charges, which he denies, of masterminding genocide in the Darfur region.
Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by William Maclean, Gareth Jones, and Andrew Cawthorne