World Bulletin/News Desk
Sudanese authorities on Friday said at least 600 people had been arrested since a wave of protests against new government austerity measures began Monday.
Interior Minister Ibrahim Mahmoud Hamid was quoted by the state-run SUNA news agency as saying that detainees faced charges of looting and vandalism, adding that trials would start next week.
All those arrested hail from capital Khartoum or Wad Madani, capital city of Al-Gezira State in east-central Sudan, he added.
The minister said public security was "a red line," adding that "there would be no lenience towards whoever tries to shake stability."
Earlier Friday, eyewitnesses said at least seven demonstrators were killed in fresh clashes with police amid stepped-up anti-austerity protests.
Eyewitnesses said that clashes between security forces and protesters in eastern Khartoum's Berri neighborhood had left two dead, while three others were killed in the northern Ashra district.
Two more people were reported killed in Wad Madani after police used live ammunition to disperse demonstrators, eyewitnesses said.
Authorities have yet to issue a statement regarding Friday's fatalities.
Demonstrations were also reported in the states of Omdurman and Khartoum Bahri and in Al-Obeid, capital city of North Kordofan.
Thousands of marchers set out from the famous Wad Nubawi Mosque in Omdurman following weekly Friday prayers, according to youth activist group Sudan Change Now.
Mass protests engulfed Sudan following a government decision on Sunday lifting state subsidies on fuel and several other commodities as part of a controversial economic reform program. The government also raised taxes on a number of consumer goods.
The move sent prices for hydrocarbons and consumer commodities skyrocketing, instantly triggering demonstrations.
While activists say more than 70 people have been killed in the protests from Sunday to Thursday, Sudanese authorities put the toll at 29.
Although backed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the austerity measures – which also include devaluation of the local currency – sparked massive protests in July.
The severe public backlash forced the government to change gears, opting instead for a more gradual approach to economic reform.Last Mod: 28 Eylül 2013, 10:05