Sudan police ordered to end protests

Sudan's police called their forces to put an end to anti-government protests immediately

Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir. AFP

KHARTOUM - Sudan's police have ordered their forces to put an end to anti-government protests immediately, state media reported on Saturday, in a sign of a growing crackdown on demonstrations that have spread throughout Khartoum over the last week.

"The police direct their forces to immediately end the demonstrations and incidents of unrest according to the law," the state-linked Sudanese Media Centre (SMC) said in a statement sent to mobile phones.

Hundreds of Sudanese joined anti-government demonstrations in Khartoum on Saturday, witnesses and activists said, pushing protests against tough spending cuts into a second week despite a security crackdown.

Fuelled by unpopular austerity measures, demonstrations spread throughout the capital a day earlier and expanded beyond the core of student activists who have dominated it so far.

Activists have sought to use anger over a worsening economic crisis to spark an "Arab Spring"-style uprising against the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Security forces have responded by using teargas and batons to break up the demonstrations, which have broken out in a variety of Khartoum's neighbourhoods but have not exceeded more than a few hundred people at any one time.

On Saturday, the smell of teargas hung in the air and smoke rose from burning tyres amid a heavy security presence in the neighbourhood of Al-Daim, which had also been the site of protests a day earlier.

A Reuters correspondent saw around 300 to 400 demonstrators, but it was difficult to get a precise count because the protesters were dispersed in small groups throughout different streets.

Activists also reported that protests broke out in at least four other neighbourhoods of Khartoum on Saturday, but it was not immediately possible to verify the reports independently.

The police were not immediately available to comment. In a rare acknowledgement of the protests on Friday, the police said they had dispersed "limited" demonstrations that did not exceed 150 people.

Sudan avoided the wave of unrest that toppled strongmen in neighbouring Egypt and Libya last year, but tough spending cuts announced this week unleashed a spate of demonstrations.