Report: About 50 dead in Sudan protests

Protesters are demanding President Omar al-Bashir step down.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir speaks during a press conference in Khartoum late on September 22, 2013. Picture:AFP

KHARTOUM - Sudanese security forces have killed at least 50 protesters with shots to the head or chest, two rights groups said on Friday.

Spurred on by the lifting of fuel subsidies on Monday, thousands of people have taken to the streets in Khartoum and central Sudan to protest against corruption and demand veteran President Omar al-Bashir steps down.

Sudan's police, which have cracked down on the protests, said late on Thursday that battles with protesters had killed 29 people, among them police officers.

But Sudanese opposition activists say at least 50 people are dead.

London-based Amnesty International and the New York-based African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies said at least 50 people had been killed by gun shots to the chest or head, citing witnesses, relatives, doctors and journalists.

Among the dead was a 14-year-old boy, while most other victims appear to be between 19 and 26-years-old, the group said in a statement. Hundreds have reportedly been detained.

"Shooting to kill - including by aiming at protesters chests and heads - is a blatant violation of the right to life, and Sudan must immediately end this violent repression by its security forces," said Lucy Freeman, Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

Sudanese officials could not be immediately reached for comment but Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said late on Thursday any figures higher than 29 were inaccurate.

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a separate statement it had confirmed that the death toll was higher than the official 29. It did not give a number.

"The police and national security forces fired teargas, rubber bullets, and according to credible reports, live ammunition into the crowds."

Activists have called for more protests after Friday prayers.

Trucks with mounted machine or anti-aircraft guns, usually only used in strife-torn regions such as Darfur in Sudan's west, were parked at main roads and near large mosques across Khartoum and its twin-city Omdurman at the Nile confluence.

Sudan's divided and weak opposition has tried several times to bring an "Arab spring" to Sudan u but has failed to mobilise masses seen in Egypt or Libya.

President al-Bashir still enjoys support from the army, security apparatus, his ruling party and wealthy Sudanese with extensive business interests.