Price protest leaves six dead in Sudan's Darfur

KHARTOUM Tue Jul 31, 2012 1:02pm EDT

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KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A protest against rising prices turned deadly in Sudan's western Darfur on Tuesday when six people were killed in the worst violence since tough austerity measures touched off demonstrations last month, an official said.

Police used teargas and batons to end a protest in Nyala by more than 1,000 people blocking roads and hurling rocks at officers in Nyala, Darfur's biggest town, witnesses said.

"Police contained the protest of students against price increases...Six people were killed. An investigation is under way to find out the reason," said Buthina Mohamed Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the government of South Darfur, which encompasses Nyala.

Activists accused the police of having used live ammunition at the biggest protest since the government announced austerity measures last month that include scaling back fuel subsidies.

Protesters threw rocks at police, burned tires and chanted "No to high prices" and "People want to change the regime", the witnesses said.

One witness said he saw around 15 injured people being treated in hospital.

Sudan has avoided an "Arab spring" like Egypt or Tunisia but discontent is growing against the 23-year rule of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

Protests against the austerity measures had mostly petered out after a security crackdown and the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan when most people stay indoors until sunset.

Sudan has been in an economic crisis since South Sudan seceded a year ago, taking with it most of the crude oil production - the lifeblood of both economies.

The loss of oil revenues left Sudan with a large budget gap and rising prices for food and other goods, many of which are imported.

Darfur has been the site of an insurgency since rebels took up arms there in 2003, complaining the central government had neglected the remote region.

Violence has since subsided from its peak, but law and order have collapsed in many parts of the vast territory, and clashes have continued to erupt between rebels and government forces.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo; Writing by Alexander Dziadosz and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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