Sudan arrests 700 people in week of deadly demonstrations

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Around 700 people have been arrested during a week of anti-government unrest in central Sudan, the government said on Monday.

Protests, which were sparked by fuel subsidy cuts, are calling on the government led by President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to resign.

Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamad said 34 people had died, far fewer than the up-to-150 estimated by Sudanese human rights activists and some diplomats, according to Reuters news agency.

Hamad also said police had not used live ammunition against protesters who, he said, had attacked more than 40 petrol stations, 13 buses, and many private cars and government buildings.

"This has nothing to do with protests," Hamad said and added that there were indications that rebels from Sudan's borderlands were involved in the violence.

Sudanese police fired tear gas Monday into a university campus where female students were protesting, the university head said on the eighth day of demonstrations sparked by rising fuel prices.

Between 150 and 200 Ahfad University for Women students were demonstrating “against the government and things like that,” university president Gasim Badri told Agence France-Presse.

He said police did not enter the campus in Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman but fired tear gas from outside.

On Friday, more than 5,000 people demonstrated in the capital, Khartoum, the biggest protest turnout in central Sudan for many years.

On the same day, Sudan’s government ordered the closure of Al Arabiya TV’s Khartoum office, just hours before summoning the channel’s correspondent for questioning.

“I do believe this is Sudan’s ‘Arab Spring’ – delayed only until anger finally overcame fear, as it now has clearly done,” Eric Reeves, a researcher and analyst of Sudanese political affairs, told Al Arabiya News.

Since fuel subsidies were lifted, prices of gasoline and diesel have increased by almost 100 percent.

“This is what prompted many in the regime to call for a restoration of the subsidies. but this only compounds the problem,” said Reeves, citing high inflation which he estimates was over 50 percent before the subsidies were lifted.