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Several people killed in Sudan food-price protests

El Tayeb Siddig, REUTERS | People in Atbara take to the streets to protest food price increases, December 20, 2018.

At least eight people have been killed while taking part in Sudanese protests against economic hardship, and especially higher bread prices, officials said on Thursday.

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The city commissioner of al Qadarif told private channel Sudania 24 that at least six people had died in clashes with police in the city, while the spokesman for the Nile River state said two people had been killed there.

The protests have brought thousands of people into the streets of Sudan, with a mob in the northern city of Atbara also torching the headquarters of President Omar Bashir’s National Congress Party. Vehicles parked outside were also torched. Police have responded by firing teargas on many of the protesters.

Protests broke out in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, Barbar in the north and Nohoud in the western Kordofan region and are among the worst to have hit the country since crowds came out against cuts to state subsidies in 2013, when again many called for a new government – a rare act in a state dominated by the army and security services.

Public anger has been building over price rises, inflation and other economic hardships – including a doubling in the cost of bread this year and limits on bank withdrawals.

The protests coincided with the return to Sudan of opposition leader Sadeq al-Mahdi, the country’s last freely elected leader, whose government was overthrown in a 1989 military coup led by Bashir. Al-Mahdi was living in self-imposed exile outside Sudan for nearly a year. Thousands of his supporters welcomed him home on Wednesday.

Lawmakers loyal to Bashir are rallying support to amend the constitution to allow the Sudanese former leader to run for re-election in 2020.

Sudan’s economy has struggled for most of the nearly three decades Bashir has been in power. The situation has rapidly deteriorated since the secession of the south of the country in 2011, which deprived Khartoum of the oilfields there.

In the hope of securing aid and investments, Bashir has in recent years moved closer to oil-rich Gulf Arab nations, especially Saudi Arabia. He has deployed Sudanese troops in Yemen to fight alongside a Saudi-led coalition backing the government there against Iran-aligned rebels.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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