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  • Sudanese demonstrators march during an anti-government protest in Khartoum.

    Sudanese demonstrators march during an anti-government protest in Khartoum. | Photo: Reuters

Published 20 February 2019 (2 hours 23 minutes ago)

A fruit seller in a market was asphyxiated by tear gas fired in a crackdown on protesters, his family said.

Despite Sudanese security forces’ violent crackdown on protests, and reports of rape threats and sexual harassment, protesters have been unrelenting — as has the President Omar al-Bashir who refuses to resign.

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About 60 people have been killed and many others tortured by security agents, activists and rights groups said. However, official numbers are marked at 32 deaths, three of whom were security personnel. Security forces have regularly used teargas, stun grenades and live ammunition to break up demonstrations.

The death toll includes a 62-year-old fruit seller in a marketplace who choked on tear gas that was fired at protesters Sunday, his family said. Hundreds of protesters had been demonstrating nearby and a group of them entered the market where police fired the tear gas.

It also includes a teacher, Ahmed Kheir, who died Feb. 1 from blunt trauma to his body after being arrested during protests in the eastern town of Khashm al-Qirbam, his family said.

"The cause of death is from various injuries to his body from a solid, flexible object, to his back, kidneys and thighs, and between his legs," head of the investigative committee for the public prosecutor, Amer Mohamed Ibrahim, told reporters.

The protests, held almost daily since Dec. 19, have been fueled by a deepening economic crisis marked by high inflation and shortages of bread, petrol, and cash. They have since become the most sustained challenge to Bashir's three decades in power.

An unprecedented number of women have also taken to the streets, despite violence from security forces and reports of sexual harassment, making up 70 percent of some demonstrations, observers said.

"They cut the bun off my head with a razorblade and they threatened me with rape when I was taken in their truck from downtown Khartoum," Jode Tariq told BBC in late January.

Last Thursday, security forces rounded up some 30 people as they dispersed protesters close to Sudan's presidential palace who were calling on President Omar al-Bashir to resign, witnesses said. The Sudanese pound fell to a record low on the black market last Thursday.

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That day in the capital, plainclothes security forces armed with plastic pipes rounded up protesters close to the presidential palace and drove them away on pickup trucks. Police also chased other activists through side streets as smaller rallies broke out. A police spokesman could not be reached for comment, Reuters reported.

At their first joint news conference a day earlier, Sudan's main opposition groups also issued a call for al-Bashir to step down, saying they have agreed on a "program that would take place after the regime falls." They added that they had agreed to hold a constitutional dialogue conference at the end of a four-year transitional governance followed by elections.

The government in turn threatened to take action against groups it accused of advocating violence. The president and his ruling National Congress Party have shown no sign of bowing to those demands and have blamed the unrest on unnamed foreign powers. He and senior officials have used more conciliatory language in recent weeks, promising to release detained demonstrators.

However, activists say hundreds remain in detention.


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