More than 140 people have been killed in three days of anti-government protests in Sudan, opposition sources said on Thursday.
Medical sources, however, put the death toll at 29. “We have received the bodies of 21 people” since the protests began on Monday, a hospital source in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman told AFP.
Eight other people were killed in other regions across the country, witnesses and families said.
Information Minister Ahmed Bilal told Al Arabiya that the army has been deployed to protect gas stations, power installations and public and private properties.
Calm was later restored in Khartoum after anti-riot units were deployed at major road intersections, but activists called on social media for fresh protests on Friday, the weekly Muslim day of prayers.
The escalating protests are the largest in Sudan since President Omar al-Bashir, whose foreign ministry denied he had called off a visit to the United Nations, seized power in 1989.
Protests called for by activists took off from Inqaz district south of Khartoum, where some 3,000 people marched on the main road and hurled stones at passing-by cars, witnesses said.
Police responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets, they said. No casualties were reported, according to AFP.
Riots broke out in several districts of the capital on Wednesday, some near the city center, and public transport ground to a halt. The demonstrations continued late into the night.
“Freedom, freedom,” and “The people want the fall of the regime,” chanted the protesters, many of them students, borrowing the refrain of Arab Spring protests that toppled several governments in 2011.
The protests have turned violent in some areas as protesters torched a tourism ministry building in one of Khartoum's southern districts, witnesses said, adding that only its exterior was burnt.
Demonstrations first erupted in Wad Madani in Gezira state south of Khartoum, the scene of the first death on Monday. They have also spread to Nyala, capital of South Darfur state.
The education authorities have announced the closure of schools until next Monday.
The Internet was restored on Thursday, users said, after a one-day cut for unexplained reasons. The social network was filled with calls for fresh protests after midday prayers on Friday.
And young activists called on demonstrators to keep up “the revolution and their protests” until the fall of the regime, urging the security forces to side with the people.
In a statement received by AFP, The Alliance of the Youth of the Sudanese Revolution said its aims were for Bashir to step down “along with the corrupt government and for its services to be dismantled.”
The US embassy has called on its citizens to avoid flashpoint areas, saying it had received “regrettable” reports of casualties and warning Americans of the danger of further protests.
Bashir had been scheduled to speak to world leaders on Thursday, but a UN spokesman, Jerome Bernard, told AFP that Foreign Minister Ali Karti would now address the assembly instead.
The foreign ministry denied the report and urged Washington to “respect its obligations and issue visas” to Bashir and his delegation, and to stop holding up the process.
The International Criminal Court has urged US authorities to arrest Bashir, who is wanted by the court in The Hague on 10 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur conflict.
The ICC issued arrest warrants for the Sudanese leader in March 2009 and July 2010, but he has since travelled to several African countries.