Hundreds of Sudanese protest, but numbers down after crackdown

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Several hundred Sudanese protested in Khartoum on Friday to demand the resignation of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, but crowds were much smaller than last week, when protests provoked a bloody security crackdown.

Amnesty International said on Wednesday that 210 protesters were killed in clashes with security forces last week, quoting figures from a Sudanese doctors’ union. This was well above the 34 reported dead by the government, which has denied shooting any protesters it calls “vandals”.

Authorities have said they arrested 700 people in what was the worst unrest in central Sudan in years, triggered by cuts in subsidies on cooking oil and fuel that doubled pump prices overnight.

In Khartoum’s Bahri district some 500 people took to the streets on Friday, shouting “freedom, freedom”, a Reuters witness said.

About 100 people also gathered in the Burri district of the capital, where a week ago a member of prominent family was shot dead, a witness said.

In Port Sudan on the Red Sea, Sudan’s biggest port, about 50 people staged a sit-in in front of the security headquarters calling for the release of political prisoners.

The protests were much smaller than those last week ago, when thousands took to the streets.

The government cut subsidies to ease a financial crunch aggravated by the secession of oil-producing South Sudan in 2011. The South’s departure deprived Khartoum of three-quarters of the crude output it relied on for state revenues and foreign currency needed to import food.

Bashir has held power since staging a bloodless coup in 1989, in spite of rebellions, U.S. trade sanctions, an economic crisis, an attempted coup last year and an indictment from the International Criminal Court on charges of masterminding war crimes in the western region of Darfur.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by David Brunnstrom