KHARTOUM, April 10 (Reuters) - Soldiers were heavily deployed around a sit-in outside Sudan’s defence ministry on Wednesday, as several thousand protesters danced, sang and chanted slogans calling on President Omar al-Bashir to step down.
The demonstrators have been camped since Saturday outside the compound, which also includes Bashir’s residence and the national security headquarters, in an escalation of protests that have shaken Sudan since December.
Forces from Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) and the riot police have repeatedly tried to break up the sit-in in early morning raids, though the army have moved to protect the protesters.
There was no such raid on Wednesday. The sit-in area had expanded slightly, with hundreds of people entering and leaving despite temperatures rising to over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), a Reuters witness said. Some blocked streets to the east of the compound with stones.
Protesters chanted “Fall, that’s all!”, “The people want to build a new Sudan”, and “Our army protects us”. Military trucks and troops were deployed around the compound, stopping cars from entering the area. Police and NISS forces appeared not to be present.
“With the army’s presence, we feel safe. The army is protecting us and we will continue the sit-in until the regime falls,” said Ayman Abdullah, a 23-year-old engineering graduate taking part in the sit-in.
Videos posted by the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, the main protest organiser, and others on social media showed demonstrators dancing, singing and chanting slogans.
A video shared by the opposition Sudanese Congress Party showed a large group of protesters marching towards the sit-in and cheering with a massive Sudanese flag draped over them.
Since Dec. 19, Sudan has been rocked by persistent protests sparked by the government’s attempt to raise the price of bread, and an economic crisis that has included fuel and cash shortages.
Opposition figures have called for the military to help negotiate an end to Bashir’s nearly three decades in power and a transition to democracy. (Writing by Aidan Lewis and Yousef Saba Editing by Frances Kerry)