December 19, 2018 / 6:46 PM / 10 months ago

State of emergency declared in Sudanese city after party HQ torched

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A state of emergency was declared in the Sudanese city of Atbara after hundreds of people protested against price increases and set fire to the local headquarters of the ruling party, officials from Nile River state said.

A curfew was declared from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in Atbara — Sudan’s railway hub, with a large railworker population manning various lines, interchanges and maintenance workshops — the state security committee said.

While small rallies have broken out in other cities, the demonstrations were larger in Atbara, which is historically a hotbed for anti-government protest.

“Today, the headquarters of the ruling party in the city of Atbara and the headquarters of the local government and a fuel station were burned,” Hatem al-Wassilah, governor of the Nile River state, said on Sudania 24 TV.

“The protests began peacefully and then turned to violence and vandalism ... We declared a state of emergency and a curfew and the closure of schools in the city.”

It was not immediately clear what the extent of the damage was at any of the buildings, or whether the fires were still ablaze.

Wassilah said the demonstrations had broken out over an increase in the price of bread to 3 pounds from 1 pound because of the lack of subsidized bread flour in the state.

A decision to reduce bread subsidies this year sparked rare nationwide protests in Sudan after bread prices doubled. But Sudan increased flour subsidies by 40 percent in November.

Port Sudan, the capital of Red Sea state, also saw limited protests on Wednesday, witnesses told Reuters.

Sudan’s annual inflation edged up to 68.93 percent in November from 68.44 percent in October.

Prime Minister Motazz Moussa said inflation for the full year 2018 was expected to be 63 percent.

Severe shortages of fuel and bread, both subsidized by the government, have forced people in the capital and other cities to queue at bakeries and petrol stations.

Earlier on Wednesday, Moussa said Sudan’s 2019 budget included 66 billion Sudanese pounds ($1.39 billion) in subsidies, 53 billion of which is for fuel and bread.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Yousef Saba; Editing by Alison Williams

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