Hundreds rally in Sudan's capital for Al-Bashir's ouster

A picture taken on January 13, 2019 shows anti-government demonstrators in the Sudani capital Khartoum. (AFP)
Updated 17 January 2019
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Hundreds rally in Sudan's capital for Al-Bashir's ouster

  • The demonstrations in Darfur were the first of their kind since unrest erupted last month
  • Protesters who took to the streets in the capital’s Bahari district were quickly confronted by riot police

CAIRO: Hundreds of protesters marched in and around Sudan's capital Khartoum on Sunday, the fourth week of unrest that began over skyrocketing prices and a failing economy but which now calls for the ouster of autocratic President Omar Al-Bashir.
Images circulated by activists online showed marches taking place in Khartoum and its northern twin cities of Omdurman and Bahary, despite security forces firing tear gas at the crowds. One group, hundreds strong, appeared to have reached Bahary's main train station.
Security forces encircled the area and fired in the air to disperse crowds around the station, the main rally point for a gathering called by protest groups, professional associations and political opposition. Shops in the area have been almost entirely shuttered, eyewitnesses said, and crowds continued to gather.
Protesters burnt tires to obscure the view of policemen chasing them down, in a cat-and-mouse game that lasted until after dark. Witnesses said security forces were breaking into local homes and businesses in pursuit of demonstrators taking refuge there.
"The people want the fall of the regime," chanted a crowd in the area, as seen in one video, echoing a popular slogan of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings that briefly defied despotism in the region, but never made it to Sudan.
Demonstrations also took place in other cities across the country, particularly in Gadarif, Faw and Amri, as well in the western region of Darfur, activists said, with eyewitnesses adding that police had broken up a 1,000-person strong demonstration in the northern Darfur town of el-Fasher.
The eyewitnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
They said that security forces had surrounded the Haj Al-Safi hospital in Khartoum, while a doctors' union warned them against attacking or firing tear gas near or inside hospitals as had been reported last week by Amnesty International.
Sudan's economy has stagnated for most of Al-Bashir's rule, but its recent lows have been dramatic, prompting the protests. He has also failed to unite or keep the peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse nation, losing three quarters of Sudan's oil wealth when the mainly animist and Christian south seceded in 2011 following a referendum.
Bashir is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Darfur.
He has been in power since he led a military coup in 1989, and has said those seeking to oust him can only do so through elections, and he is running for another term in office next year. He has insisted that the protests are part of a foreign plot to undermine Sudan's "Islamic experiment" and blamed the country's worsening economic crisis on international sanctions.
Already among the longest serving leaders in the region, Al-Bashir hopes to win another term in office. In a bid to placate popular anger over his economic policies, he has promised higher wages, continuing state subsidies on basic goods and more benefits for pensioners.
His promises have been dismissed by critics as untenable.
Also Sunday, the government raised its official death toll from the weeks of protest by five to 24, still undercutting numbers released by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, who say at least 40 have been killed.
Sudan's General Prosecutor said nine of those killed were in Gadaref, a province southeast of Khartoum close to the Ethiopian and Eritrean borders. The rest were killed in Omdurman and regions north and northeast of the capital.


Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

Updated 17 February 2019
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Fire sweeps through Bangladesh slum, nine dead

  • Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh: A fire tore through a slum in southern Bangladesh on Sunday killing at least 9 people and destroying hundreds of shanty homes, police said.
The blaze broke out in the port city of Chittagong at about 3.30 A.M. and raced through the district of bamboo, tin and tarpaulin homes, said local police chief Pranab Chowdhury.
“At least 470 shanties were destroyed by the fire. So far 9 people have died. They included four members of a family,” fire brigade official Hefazatul Islam said.
Fires regularly break out in Bangladesh’s slums, where millions live in squalid living conditions.
Rights groups have in the past alleged some shanty town blazes were deliberate acts of sabotage by developers seeking to free up property to construct multi-story buildings.
“We have seen fires are used as a weapon to evict poor slum dwellers and squatters from government or private property,” rights activist Nur Khan Liton said.