Sudanese police have fired tear gas and stun grenades on hundreds of protesters in several cities, including the capital Khartoum, as opposition groups urged for more anti-government protests.
The protests, which entered their 10th day on Friday, were staged after the weekly prayers in some areas of Khartoum, its twin city Omdurman, Port Sudan, Atbara and Madani, witnesses said.
Hundreds of worshippers emerged from the mosque in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on the west bank of the Nile to protest, but anti-riot police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Worshippers also marched in the eastern city of Atbara, where the deadly protests against a rise in the prices of bread and fuel first began on December 19.
Sudan has been rocked by 10 days of anti-government protests sparked by rising prices, shortages of basic commodities and a cash crisis.
The protests came as opposition groups called for more anti-government rallies to be held over the next few days.
The Sudanese authorities responded by arresting at least nine opposition leaders and activists, according to a civil society group.
The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service denied any knowledge of the arrests.
At least 19 people have died during the protests, including two military personnel, according to official figures. However, rights group Amnesty International put the death toll at 37.
The opposition leaders were arrested late on Thursday after security forces raided their meeting in Khartoum according to a statement by a committee of professional organisations involved in the protests.
The nine arrested included Siddiq Youssef, a senior leader of Sudan’s Communist Party, as well as leaders from the pan-Arab Ba’ath and Nasserist parties, the statement said.
The raid came after opposition groups called for more protests after the weekly noon prayers on Friday.
Fourteen leaders of one of Sudan’s two main opposition groupings were briefly held last Saturday.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the protests were getting increased backing from political and civil society groups.
“It is not clear if the government would allow the protests to go, we have seen on Tuesday how they responded with tear gas and live ammunition,” she said, adding: “And this is basically what might be happening today again that more live ammunition and tear gas will be used and that the death toll will rise.”
Protests initially started in towns and villages more than a week ago and later spread to Khartoum, as people rallied against the government tripling the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three ($0.02 to $0.06).
Demonstrators have also been marching against Sudan’s dire economic situation and some have called for President Omar al-Bashir‘s resignation.
Doctors and journalists have launched a strike in support of the protests.
Sudan has been gripped by a deep financial crisis since 2011 when the southern half of the country voted to secede, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output.
The crisis was further aggravated by years of overspending and mismanagement.
Opposition groups blame Bashir, who has been in power since a 1989 coup, for the mismanagement.
A series of economic measures, including a sharp devaluation of the Sudanese pound in October, have failed to shore up the economy.
In January, Sudan was shaken by rare nationwide protests triggered by high bread prices.
But the recent protests that began on December 19 appear to be more serious.
Since the demonstrations began, police have used tear gas and sometimes live ammunition against demonstrators, according to residents.
The authorities have shuttered schools and declared curfews and a state of emergency in several regions.
Journalists at the daily Al-Sudani said one of their colleagues was beaten by security forces after protesters passed next to the independent newspaper’s offices.