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Security services tear gas activists defying protest ban in Sudan

Protests against President Omar al-Bashir's rule have rocked Sudan for more than three months
Protesters shout slogans during an anti-government demonstration in Sudan capital Khartoum on 18 March (AFP)

Protesters were met with tear gas after defying a ban on demonstrations in Sudan on Thursday, as activists continued to campaign against President Omar al-Bashir's rule.

According to eyewitnesses speaking to AFP, protesters demonstrated on Thursday in Khartoum's Burri and Bahari districts as well as in the city of Omdurman, and were swiftly met with suppression by security services.

Demonstrations also took place in the town of Madani, southeast of the capital, the eastern border town of Kasala and in a town in the state of North Kordofan.

"Protesters chanted anti-government slogans as they gathered in Madani's main market, but were confronted with tear gas," a resident said on condition of anonymity.

Public unrest against Bashir's rule first erupted on 19 December in the central town of Atbara in response to a government decision to triple the price of bread.

They swiftly escalated into nationwide demonstrations calling for the president, who swept to power in a 1989 coup, to leave.

Bashir has remained defiant, and following an initial crackdown on protests he imposed a year-long state of emergency, which parliament later cut to six months.

Officials say 31 people have died in protest-related violence, but Human Rights Watch has put the death toll at 51, including children and medics.

Several demonstrators have been jailed by special emergency courts set up to investigate violations of the emergency.

Since the new measures came into effect, the scale and intensity of protests have declined, with once daily demonstrations turning into weekly rallies, usually on Thursdays.

The movement, seen by analysts as the biggest challenge yet to Bashir's rule, was initially led by the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA).

Several political parties have since then joined the SPA to form an umbrella group called the Alliance for Freedom and Change to call for protests against the veteran leader's rule.

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