Social media activist held in dragnet after Sudan demos

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A social media activist working for the World Bank has been arrested in Sudan, her husband said Wednesday, part of a crackdown after fuel price hikes sparked deadly protests.

Eight security officers took Dalia El Roubi from her family home on Monday, her husband Abdelrahman Elmahdi told AFP.

They also detained her friend Rayan Shaker, a fellow activist, but gave no reason for the arrests, Elmahdi said.

“As of today we have no clue as to her whereabouts or where she is staying or her condition,” he said.

Elmahdi said his wife, a mother of three, belongs to no political party but is “part of the youth movement,” including a group called Sudan Change Now.

He said his wife had joined one protest last weekend, a funeral procession for Salah Sanhouri, a pharmacist gunned down during a demonstration.

Security officers seized a video camera and a small digital camera from El Roubi's home, her husband added.

No one at the Sudan office of the World Bank, where El Roubi works as a communications specialist, was able to comment.

The Washington-based Bank works to fight global poverty.

Sudan's government says it has arrested hundreds of “criminals” after last week's protests.

Authorities say 34 people died after petrol and diesel prices jumped, sending thousands into the streets in the worst urban unrest during President Omar al-Bashir's 24-year rule.

Activists and international human rights groups said at least 50 people were shot dead, most of them in the greater Khartoum area.

The government said it had to intervene last week when crowds turned violent, attacking petrol stations and police facilities.

France, Britain and the United States have expressed concern at Sudan's reaction to the protests.

On Tuesday, the foreign ministry in Paris condemned the “disproportionate way” authorities responded to the demonstrations, and the “arbitrary arrests and media censorship.”

Britain's Minister for Africa Mark Simmonds on Monday said he was “shocked and saddened” by reports that Sudan's security forces had used excessive force against protesters.

“I am also concerned at the large number of detentions, including of a number of journalists and political activists, and by the heavy censorship of the press and closure of international news agencies,” he said.

Last week, Washington blasted the “brutal crackdown” and expressed alarm at reports that civil society activists had been detained, independent media outlets shut, and communications networks restricted.

The Committee to Protest Journalists, a New York-based watchdog, said late Tuesday that Sudan was using “censorship and intimidation” in an effort to make journalists stick to the official line about the protests.

The intensity of demonstrations has faded this week but witnesses on Wednesday reported two small rallies.

About 30 women stood silently in Khartoum near military headquarters and Bashir's guest house, one witness said.

“We want justice for the martyrs and the injured,” said a banner, while another sign called for freedom of expression, the witness said.

In the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, up to 100 students took to the streets denouncing the regime, a witness there said.