Sudanese police fired live ammunition at mourners outside the home of a protester who died early on Friday from a gunshot wound sustained the night before.
About 2,000 mourners gathered in the Burri neighbourhood where the man, Moawia Bashir Khalil, 60, was shot on Thursday. According to local reports, Khalil was killed inside his home for helping unarmed protesters hide from security forces.
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The procession turned into a spontaneous anti-government demonstration, the latest in a series of protests against the leadership of President Omar al-Bashir. The capital, Khartoum, has witnessed weeks of pitched battles between police and demonstrators over the state of the economy and other issues.
“We are not scared, we will not stop” the protesters shouted, as they took to the streets of Khartoum’s eastern district of Burri, the hub of an anti-government rally late on Thursday.
Video footage showed men and women, many wearing masks, shouting slogans against the government as a thick plume of smoke – resulting from burning tyres and rubbish – billowed behind them.
⭕️ فيديو من بث مباشر :
تحطيم عربة شرطة حاولت اقتحام عزاء معاوية بشير.. pic.twitter.com/v90krM2DI4
— ★مچ تبآآآآ★ (@MujtabaaMusaa) January 18, 2019
A child and a doctor were also killed by gunfire in Burri on Thursday, said the Sudan Doctors’ Committee (SDC), a group linked to the opposition.
Before police opened fire on Friday, some mourners pelted officers nearby with rocks and overturned and destroyed a police truck, witness video showed.
The mourners blocked the main street in Burri with boulders and chanted “there is no God but God!” and “Martyr! Martyr!”. Several were wailing and crying and some were carrying Sudanese flags.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
After Friday’s shooting outside Khalil‘s home, thousands attended his funeral at a cemetery across from a police officers’ club. Clashes with police had calmed by the time protesters transported the body to Burri Mosque.
Demonstrations also spread to other cities and towns, including the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, the provincial capital of Gadaref and in the agricultural hub of Atbara, where the first protest broke out in December after a government decision to raise bread prices.
The protests have since escalated into broader demonstrations against al-Bashir’s three decades of iron-fisted rule that have triggered deadly clashes with security forces.
Officials say at least 24 people have died, but human rights groups have put the death toll much higher.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Khartoum, said the demonstrations showed little sign of slowing down.
“These protests are set to continue. Today is Friday, usually, a day when protesters have an easy excuse to gather in mosques at the end of the prayer,” Vall said.
“Police have [in the past] been able to stand in areas where protests were planned and prevent hundreds from congregating. But they are not expected to do that today because the anger is rising and will only get bigger as the hours of the day progress.”
Last week, Amnesty International said more than 40 people had been killed and more than 1,000 arrested.
Human Rights Watch said the dead included children and medical staff.
Before the protests, AFP reported that one of their journalists saw security personnel, many in plain clothes, stationed across the downtown area of Khartoum and along the expected route of Thursday’s march.
Several army vehicles, mounted with machine guns, were stationed outside the palace.
The Sudanese Professionals Association – a trade union representing doctors, teachers and engineers among others – has stepped into the vacuum created by the arrest of many opposition leaders.
Mohammed Yousef, a spokesman for the association, said demonstrators were prepared to continue to press their grievances while remaining patient and wise.
“The people of Sudan are known for being particularly determined, stubborn, and for playing the long game. They are not hot-headed, nor do they despair easily,” he said.
Despite the crackdown, the movement has grown to become the biggest threat to Bashir’s rule since he took power in 1989.
The protesters accuse Bashir’s government of mismanagement of key sectors of the economy and of pouring funds into a military response Sudan can ill afford.
Sudan has suffered from a chronic shortage of foreign currency since South Sudan broke away in 2011, taking with it the lion’s share of oil revenues.
That triggered soaring inflation and saw the cost of food and medicines more than double, with frequent shortages in major cities, including Khartoum.
Al-Bashir has blamed the protests on foreign “agents” and said the unrest would not lead to a change in government, challenging his opponents to seek power through the ballot box.
He has ordered the police to use “less force” against protesters, but deadly violence during the demonstrations continues.