700 Arrested in Violent Protests in Sudan

Human rights activists in the North African country say up to 150 people have been killed in riots after fuel subsidies were cut last week.

Adam Ross,

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir
U.S. Navy

Violent demonstrations have ripped through the Sudanese capital Khartoum leaving as many as 150 dead according to Sudanese human rights activists.In addition to the deaths, around 700 people have been arrested so far this week.

The protests began a week ago when Sudan, a major producer of oil, scrapped its fuel subsidies almost doubling prices. The demonstrations seem to have triggered a full-faced expression of anti-government sentiment.

Saudi-owned news agency Al Arabiya, reported that 34 people had been confirmed killed according to the Sudanese Interior Ministry. The report said diplomats and human rights activists had placed the number 5 times higher at 150.

Even according  to the lowest estimate, the death toll makes the protests the most deadly since Omar al-Bashir assumed the presidency in Sudan over twenty years ago.

Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told AFP on Sunday that removing fuel subsidies was “the only way out” and would save the country billions of dollars, although he admitted that scrapping the subsidy was “a bit heavy for the people.”

In the biggest protest to take place in years, over 5,000 people demonstrated in Khartoum on Friday. Police also fired tear gas into a crowd of around 200 women protesting at a university campus.

In a statement, Interior Minister Ibrahim Hamad denied that police had fired live ammunition at demonstrators he said had attacked over 40 petrol stations, more than a dozen buses, as well as private cars and government buildings. 

He also said the fuel protests were a "smokescreen" and blamed the violence on rebels from Sudan's borderlands

On Friday, the government ordered Al Arabiya's offices in the capital to be shut down. The news agency has described recent events in Sudan as proof that the Arab Spring had reached the North African country.