Sudanese torch ruling party's office as fuel protests spread

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Sudanese demonstrators angry over oil price hikes set fire to the ruling party's headquarters in the capital's twin city of Omdurman Tuesday as protests spread across the country, witnesses said.

“I saw the building's three floors on fire as people fled,” a witness told AFP, saying many were carrying looted furniture.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the second straight day of violence around the country, in which police fired buckshot and tear gas to disperse demonstrators. But police said unknown gunmen had killed a demonstrator in a drive-by shooting late Monday during a protest in the central Al-Jazeera state.

Witnesses said hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Omdurman and Khartoum, as well as Nyala, capital of South Darfur state, and Wad Madani in Al-Jazeera, where the protests first started Monday.

An AFP correspondent said around 1,000 demonstrators spilled into Omdurman's heavily populated Al-Thawra district and were confronted by anti-riot police.

Police fired tear gas to disperse the crowds, who were shouting “Freedom, Freedom!” and “The people want the fall of the regime!” The protest in Omdurman began in the early morning and demonstrators were still on the streets by mid-afternoon. Around 400 students also demonstrated in a north Khartoum neighborhood, and police fired tear gas at them, a witness said.

In Nyala, Sudan's second largest city, thousands of students filled the streets and blocked a main road, a resident told AFP by telephone. He estimated their numbers at 3,000 and said they were shouting “No to price hikes!” and calling for the ouster of the government.

In Wadi Madani, police fired buckshot at hundreds of protesters in the city's main market, a witness said.
“There were around 300 demonstrators, mostly youths, and they marched to the market,” the witness said. Police reinforcements sent in to break up the protest fired tear gas and beat demonstrators with clubs, the witness added.

On Monday, the government announced steep price rises for petroleum products after suspending subsidies in a bid to reform the economy.

Oil prices at the pump have shot up to 20.80 Sudanese pounds ($4.71) a gallon from 12.50 pounds ($2.83), while diesel has risen from 8.50 pounds a gallon to 13.90 pounds. Inflation in Sudan is already running at 40 percent.

President Omar al-Bashir said Sunday that the subsidies had reached “a level that is dangerous for the economy.”

Sudan lost billions of dollars in oil receipts when South Sudan gained independence two years ago, taking with it about 75 percent of the formerly united country's crude production. Since then Sudan has been plagued by inflation, a weakened currency and a severe shortage of dollars to pay for imports.

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