Sudan police fire tear gas as protesters rally in Khartoum

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Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds of demonstrators in the capital on Thursday, witnesses said, after campaigners called for new nationwide protests against President Omar al-Bashir’s rule.

Chanting “freedom, peace, justice,” the rallying cry of the protest movement that has rocked Sudan for weeks, demonstrators took to the streets in both Khartoum and its twin city Omdurman.

“Riot police are firing tear gas at protesters in north Khartoum but they are still demonstrating,” a witness told AFP, declining to reveal his identity out of fear for his safety.

Protesters also gathered in several villages in Jazeera State, south of the capital, witnesses said.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has headed the protest movement, has called for daily demonstrations but few have been reported in recent few days.

The demonstrations began in the farming town of Atbara on December 19 over the government’s decision to triple the price of bread.

They quickly mushroomed into nationwide protests widely seen as the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule since he took power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

Anger has been mounting for years over deteriorating living conditions and growing economic hardship in the east African country.

Sudan’s economic woes triggered mass protests in 2013 that were put down only at the cost of dozens of deaths.

Officials say 30 people have died in violence related to the latest protests.

Human rights groups say children and medics have been among more than 40 people killed since December 19.

The veteran president has remained defiant, addressing loyalist counterdemonstrations and visiting regional allies to seek support.

Addressing a loyalist rally in the eastern town of Kassala on Thursday, Bashir mocked his opponents’ use of social media to mobilise protests against his three-decade rule.

“Changing the government or presidents cannot be done through WhatsApp or Facebook,” Bashir told the crowd. “It can be done only through elections.”