CAIRO, EGYPT - Sudan’s security forces arrested more than a dozen academics who joined a protest outside Khartoum University in the Sudanese capital, calling for embattled President Omar al-Bashir to step down, activists said Wednesday.
They said police arrested at least 14 academics while protesting Tuesday. Their whereabouts remained unknown, they added.
The activists spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. A government spokesman did not immediately respond to phone calls and messages seeking comment.
Sudan's crackdown on anti-government protesters could jeopardize efforts to normalize relations with the United States, some key U.S. observers say.
Since protests erupted Dec. 19 over high inflation and rising bread and fuel prices, rights groups and news sources, including VOA, have issued reports of arbitrary arrests, detentions and killings.
Protests continued Thursday as hundreds of people took to the streets of Khartoum demanding the release of detained activists and that long-time President Omar al-Bashir step down.
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered Tuesday in different Sudanese cities including the capital, Khartoum. Video footage showed demonstrators gathering at intersections chanting “just fall,” and calling for a “people’s revolution.”
The protests, called for by professional and opposition groups, are part of a wave of unrest over a failing economy that has transformed into demands for the resignation of the autocratic al-Bashir, an Islamist who has run the country for nearly 30 years but brought little improvement to his people. The protests, which show no sign of abating, first erupted on Dec. 19.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella group of independent professional unions, which organizes the protests, called for another march on Thursday to the presidential palace to demand the ouster of al-Bashir.
The country’s intelligence and security officials, along with Bashir, insist that the rallies are the work of what they describe as “evil” foreign powers, and have vowed to stop them.
Al-Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, insists that only elections, which he intends to take part in, will result in change. Wanted for genocide by the International Criminal Court, al-Bashir has repeatedly warned that the protests could plunge Sudan into the kind of chaos convulsing other countries in the region.
Sudan says it will release all the journalists it detained for covering protests in recent weeks calling for the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir.
State media say the reporters will be released Saturday. Activists, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, say the move is intended to defuse public anger over the government’s response to the demonstrations. They say at least 16 journalists are behind bars.
Activists say at least 57 people have been killed in the protests. An estimated 2,000 protesters have also since been wounded, many shot in the eye with birdshot and some losing limbs from live ammunition, according to activists, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The government’s latest tally stands at 30 killed and about 400 wounded, but these figures have not been updated in days.