Sudan reinforces Khartoum ahead of march

KHARTOUM (AFP) – Sudanese security forces deployed in numbers in Khartoum yesterday as demonstrators threatened to march on President Omar al-Bashir’s palace to demand his resignation after a month of escalating protests.

Simultaneous protests were called in 11 other cities, including Atbara, a farming town in the east where demonstrators first took to the streets on December 19 to protest against a government decision to triple the price of bread.

The demonstrations have since escalated into broader protests against Bashir’s three-decade rule that have triggered clashes with the security forces which have left at least 24 people dead, according to officials.

Human rights groups have put the death toll higher.

Amnesty International said last week that more than 40 people had been killed and more than 1,000 arrested.

Human Rights Watch said the dead included children and medical staff.

An AFP journalist saw security personnel, many in plainclothes, stationed across the downtown area of Khartoum and along the expected route of yesterday’s march.

Several army vehicles mounted with machine guns were stationed outside the palace.

Little traffic was seen at what is usually the height of the morning rush hour as people stayed off the streets.

Riot police have moved swiftly to disperse previous protests, firing tear gas to clear the streets of demonstrators chanting the movement’s slogan: “Freedom, peace, justice”.