Police beat Sudanese at short-lived protest: witnesses

KHARTOUM Fri Feb 4, 2011 10:37am EST

Heavily armed police patrol Khartoum's main streets, January 30, 2011. REUTERS/Stringer

Heavily armed police patrol Khartoum's main streets, January 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Police beat and tear gassed students protesting in Sudan's Sennar state, the latest in a series of short-lived demonstrations partly inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, witnesses said.

Around 200 students, protesting against price rises and calling for change, tried to rally outside Sennar university on Thursday afternoon, before officers moved in with batons and then surrounded the compound, witnesses told Reuters.

Sudan has used armed riot police to disperse a series of demonstrations by young Sudanese across the north of the country in recent weeks.

Protests earlier last month focused on food prices and human rights abuses and broadened to include calls for political change after images of massed protests in Cairo, Tunis and other cities were broadcast across the world.

The protests, many around universities, have so far not been supported by wider parts of the population and have failed to gain momentum.

Also Thursday police arrested dozens of people near the scene of a planned protest in the capital's Khartoum North suburb, said witnesses. The demonstration, which had been publicized on the internet, did not take place.

Police set up road blocks in and around Khartoum to search cars and lorries overnight. A Reuters witness saw officers even checking inside bags of vegetables in one vehicle on the road from Khartoum to the town of Kosti.

As part of a wider crackdown on opposition voices, officers arresting 10 journalists from Sudan's Communist Party newspaper Wednesday and detained opposition Islamist Hassan al-Turabi and 12 of his party officials last month.

A police spokesman said there was no official comment on the reports Friday, the start of the weekend in Sudan.

Sudan is facing an economic crisis marked by soaring inflation. It is also vulnerable politically after the south of the country -- the source of most of its oil -- voted overwhelmingly to secede last month.

(Writing by Andrew Heavens; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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