CAIRO - Hundreds of protesters in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, chanted slogans Friday against the government of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, including the popular Arab Spring slogan, "The people want to topple the regime." It was the fourth day of protests over rising prices and political oppression.
Social media reported protests Thursday in more than half a dozen districts of Khartoum, in addition to multiple demonstrations in the neighboring city of Omdurman.
Amateur video showed a top regional official in Gadarif, thought to be the governor of the town, fleeing an angry crowd in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The crowd pelted the car with stones. Gadarif has been a hotbed of protests, prompting a curfew to be imposed.
Photos on Twitter showed government buildings set ablaze by angry protesters. Some photos showed government soldiers observing the demonstrations without intervening, while others showed security forces firing tear gas at protesters.
Rabie Abdel Attie, a leader of the ruling National Congress Party, said popular protests are "legitimate" to a certain extent.
He says it is normal for citizens to protest fuel shortages and rising bread prices, but condemned what he called troublemakers who were exploiting popular discontent to ransack public and private property.
Prime Minister Motazz Moussa told a press conference several days ago that the current economic crisis has been a long time in the making.
Moussa says the ongoing economic difficulties the people are experiencing over shortages of hard currency, bread, fuel and medicine are the result of flaws in the economy which go back many years.
Sudanese political leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, who was overthrown in the coup led by Bashir in 1989, recently returned from exile in Egypt. Photos on social media showed the former prime minister in the midst of a crowd of demonstrators.
Al Hadi Ezzedin, a Sudanese journalist in Cairo, told VOA that the Sudanese people were revolting against what he called a "dictatorial regime."
He says the government has been in power for 30 years and that it governs by force, preventing people from freely expressing their opinions or beliefs. It uses force and oppression, he says, to subdue opposition.
Bashir has been trying to amend the constitution to allow him to run for another term.
?Meeting in Syria
Separately, Bashir met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after traveling to Damascus on a Russian plane. It was the first visit by an Arab head of state to the Syrian capital since the Assad government was expelled from the Arab League in 2011.
There has been speculation in the Arab media that Bashir is seeking a country that might grant him exile if he were forced to resign. Bashir is wanted on an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for genocide and war crimes committed in the Darfur region in the early 2000s. It is thought that a number of countries have told him that they would not grant him asylum.