Sudan protesters plan march as Bashir sacks health minister

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A Sudanese group organizing anti-government protests has called for a march on the presidential palace as President Omar al-Bashir sacked the health minister Saturday over rising costs of medicines.

Deadly anti-government rallies have rocked cities including Khartoum since December 19, when protests first broke out over a government decision to raise the price of bread.


Authorities say at least 19 people including two security personnel have been killed in clashes during the demonstrations so far, but rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

“We call on our supporters to gather at four different places in Khartoum and then begin a march on the palace” of the president on Sunday, the Sudanese Professionals' Association said Saturday in a statement.

The association, which includes teachers, doctors and engineers, has held similar rallies in recent weeks but they have been swifty broken up by riot police.

Security forces were deployed in key squares across the capital on Saturday night.

Late on Saturday, Bashir sacked minister of health Mohamed Abuzaid Mustafa, the official SUNA news agency reported.

He has been replaced by Al-Khier Al-Nour, SUNA said without giving details.

Rising drug prices and shortages have added to the anger of protestors already furious over the cost of other key products.

Sudanese pharmaceutical companies have been unable to import some medicines after a years-long foreign currency shortage worsened last year.

But even as protesters called for a new march on Sunday, Sudan's education ministry ordered the reopening of schools in Khartoum from Tuesday.

Schools and classes had been suspended “indefinitely” across the capital since December 23, when violence erupted during initial protests.

Schools were also closed in other cities where protests have been held, but it was still unclear whether they would reopen next week.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi offered Sudan his country's support during a meeting in Cairo with a top aide of his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir, the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.

“Egypt fully supports the security and stability of Sudan, which is integral to Egypt's national security,” it quoted Sisi as saying.

Sudanese authorities have launched a crackdown on opposition leaders, activists and journalists since protests erupted last month.

The country has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year.

The cost of some commodities including medicines has more than doubled and inflation has hit 70 percent.

Food and fuel shortages have been regularly reported across several cities, including Khartoum.

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