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Sudanese opposition deputy leader arrested by security forces

Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi, daughter of a former prime minister, detained days after he declared support for protests
Mariam al-Mahdi is the deputy leader of Sudan's opposition National Umma Party (AFP)

The deputy leader of Sudan's main opposition National Umma party, Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi, was detained by Sudanese security forces on Wednesday. Her detention comes days after the party's head, her father Sadiq al-Mahdi, declared his support for growing anti-government protests. 

Two security vehicles arrived at Mahdi's home on Wednesday morning and took her away, her sister Rabah Sadiq al-Mahdi told the Reuters news agency.

"The NISS officers came in two vehicles at 10:30am (08.30 GMT). They told Mariam's husband that they had to question her," her sister said.

"The officers said they would bring her back but she still has not returned and her mobile phone is switched off."

The interior ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Mahdi was arrested a day after Sudan's intelligence chief announced he had ordered the release of all prisoners detained during "recent incidents".

The National Umma party deputy head is a medical doctor and was named by the Sudanese Doctors' Committee as one of 27 doctors in detention, in a statement on Wednesday. 

After a month and a half of protests, Sadiq al-Mahdi declared his support for the protests against President Omar al-Bashir's three-decade rule, telling his party's supporters to join them. 

The country has seen almost daily protests in most of its cities and towns since 19 December, when anger about rising livings costs erupted and quickly morphed into protests against Bashir's rule. 

Activists say more than 50 people have been killed since protests began. The government puts the death toll at 30. 

Mahdi senior, a former prime minister, returned to Sudan last month from nearly a year in self-imposed exile.

He was overthrown in 1989 by an alliance of Islamists and military commanders that still form the nucleus of Bashir’s National Congress Party.