Sudan: More than 800 protesters have been arrested, minister says
Sudanese authorities have arrested more than 800 demonstrators during an anti-government protest campaign over the past few weeks, Interior Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman has said.
"The total number of protesters arrested until now is 816," Osman told parliament on Monday, as reported by AFP.
This is the first official figure for detained protesters since rallies against the rule of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir began on 19 December following a hike in bread prices.
Authorities say at least 19 people, including two security personnel, have been killed in clashes during the demonstrations, but rights group Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.
Osman told lawmakers a total of 381 protests have been reported since 19 December.
He also said 118 buildings were destroyed in the protests, including 18 that belonged to police, while 194 vehicles were set on fire, including 15 that belonged to international organisations.
"The demonstrations began peacefully, but some thugs with a hidden agenda used them to indulge in looting and stealing," the minister said, adding that the situation across Sudan was now "calm and stable".
On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered in the eastern town of Kassala and neighbouring villages to express their support for Bashir.
"We want Bashir as president in order to maintain security in the country," Mohameddin Issa, a resident of Kassala participating in the rally, told AFP by telephone.
"Security is the top priority, after that comes food...but I also believe that the problem of food will be solved soon."
On Sunday, Sudanese security agents arrested eight professors at the University of Khartoum, as police fired tear gas at protesters to prevent demonstrators from rallying for a march towards the presidential palace.
"Police are not even allowing 10 people to gather," a witness told the AFP on Sunday.
Protests on Sunday also broke out in the city of Madani, southeast of the capital, witnesses said, with demonstrators chanting for "peace, justice, freedom".
An anti-government rally was also held in the northern town of Atbara, where the current unrest first erupted last month.
Witnesses said the local market in Atbara was shut down as protesters took to the streets.
Meanwhile, the Sudanese authorities have launched a crackdown on opposition leaders, activists and journalists to prevent the spread of protests.
The country has been facing a mounting economic crisis over the past year, after a years-long foreign currency shortage worsened last 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.