Protesters storm security buildings in east Sudan, say witnesses

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Sudanese protesters Thursday stormed buildings of the intelligence services in two eastern cities after officers refused to release political prisoners, witnesses said.

The official SUNA news agency had announced that the National Intelligence and Security Service was releasing all political detainees across the country.

But protesters in the eastern cities of Kasala and Port Sudan took matters into their own hands when the releases failed to materialize.

“Protesters stormed the building and looted all the equipment that was there,” a witness from Kasala told AFP by telephone.

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Earlier on Thursday, Organizers of the nationwide protests against Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir called on Khartoum residents to mass at army headquarters as state media said the army would make an “important statement.”

“We call on our people from across the Khartoum capital and the region around to immediately go to the sit-in area and not leave from there until our next statement is issued,” the Sudanese Professionals Association said.

A sit-in outside army headquarters, which also houses Bashir’s residence, entered its sixth day on Thursday with protesters gathered in what the European Union has described as “an unprecedented number.” A Reuters witness said tens of thousands were marching through center of Sudanese capital Khartoum.

The months of protests have plunged Sudan into its worst crisis in years. The demonstrations initially erupted last December with rallies against a spiraling economy, but quickly escalated into calls for an end to embattled al-Bashir.

The protests against al-Bashir gained momentum last week after Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in power for 20 years, resigned in response to weeks of similar protests, according to the Associated Press..

Saturday’s marches in Khartoum marked the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of former President al-Nimeiri in a bloodless coup. It was one of the largest turnouts in the current wave of unrest.

The military removed Nimeiri after a popular uprising in 1985. It quickly handed over power to an elected government.

The dysfunctional administration lasted only a few years until al-Bashir - a career army officer - allied with Islamist hard-liners and toppled it in a coup in 1989.

Al-Bashir has banned unauthorized public gatherings and granted sweeping powers to the police since imposing a state of emergency last month, and security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition and batons against demonstrators.

Security forces have responded to the protest movement with a fierce crackdown, killing dozens of people.

(With Reuters inputs)

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