Home | News    Friday 27 September 2013

Sudan cuts internet for next 48 hours as fears mount of new post-Friday prayers protests

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September 26, 2013 (KHARTOUM) - Fresh clashes broke out between Sudanese security forces and demonstrators in different parts of the capital Khartoum on Thursday night despite a relatively calm morning compared to the day before.

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A picture taken on September 26, 2013 in the Sudanese capital Khartoum shows a digger and a building that were damaged in the rioting that erupted following a decision of the government to scrap fuel subsidies (AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday witnessed the fiercest protests by demonstrators who were angry about the government’s decision this week to implement new cuts on fuel subsidies causing the prices of gasoline and diesel to almost double.

The protestors chanted slogans which included "The people want the fall of the regime!", "Freedom, Freedom!".

The Sudanese Interior Ministry announced that yesterday’s protests led to the death of 29 people including policemen. But activists and opposition figures say that the actual number exceeds 100 along with hundreds of injuries and arrests by security officers.

The director of Omdurman hospital Osama Mortada told the BBC’s Arabic Service on Wednesday that 21 people sent to his hospital had died, and that about 80 were injured.

"All have gunshot wounds, some in the chest," he said.

The areas of Wad Nubawy, al-Thawra in Sudan’s twin capital city of Omdurman and al-Kalaklat in south Khartoum saw demonstrations that were met with violent response from the police which chased the protesters by cars to prevent them from blocking a main street in al-Thawra.

Eyewitnesses in Wad Nubawy and al-Kalaklat said that police used live ammunition and tear gas adding that mass arrests of young people were carried out from inside the neighborhoods without notifying their parents.

The Sudanese police in a statement asserted that security and stability has returned to the states of Khartoum and Gezira but disclosed that some of its members were critically injured.

‘ARMED ELEMENTS’

The governor of Khartoum Abdel-Rahman al-Khidir claimed that authorities have detected the movement of "organized" and "trained" elements with stated goals of carrying out the sabotage operations that hit gas stations, public transportation buses and other buildings.

Al-Khidir did not blame a specific group but other officials this week accused the Sudan Revolutionary Front (SRF) rebel coalition of infiltrating the protests and inciting violence.

The governor said that those elements have emerged during the protests to target people with all types of weapons. He further said that these groups were spotted being moved in vehicles to target specific sites .

Some opposition figures and activists accused pro-government militias and National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) of standing behind the sabotage operations to tarnish the nature of these protests.

Al-Khidir announced that the state security committee directed the competent organs to decisively address any acts of sabotage as required by law and striking with an "iron fist".

The governor of Khartoum in his statement said that authorities instructed police at the beginning of the protests to deal "gently" with the demonstrators.

He pledged that his government is working to ensure that the flow of services affected by the acts of sabotage such as fuel, bread and transportation returns to normal.

Since yesterday the vast majority of businesses and shops were closed as merchants feared looting. Public Transportation services were also severely downgraded.

Al-Khidir said that a security operation carried out resulted in the of arrest hundreds of outlaws and gangs and found stolen goods and properties in their possession.

The Sudanese Commission for Human Rights, which is under the purview of the Presidency, called on authorities to establish an independent judicial committee to investigate the damage and loss of life that occurred during this week’s protests and monitor any use of excessive force by Sudanese security .to disperse the demonstrators.

The Commission also called for prosecuting anyone involved in the killing, looting or sabotage and demanded that the government compensate citizens affected by the demonstrations.

COUNTING LOSSES

The Secretary General of the National Chamber for distribution of petroleum products al-Agib Suleiman said that 69 gas stations were affected by the riots in Khartoum state with varying degrees of damages.

The most impacted companies included Bashayer (12 stations), Petronas (10 stations), Mathew (8 stations), Gadra (6 stations), al-Nahla (6 stations), Neel (5 stations) and Aman (4 stations).

He stressed that there is no fuel shortage but that the fewer unaffected gas station are under pressure because of heavy demand adding that the situation will improve when other stations resume work.

Zainab Jamal al-Din from al-Nahla fuel said that their loss is estimated at 12 million pounds and that four of their stations were completely damaged and another two partially.

Petronas on its end said that out of its 37 stations, 20% were affected and pointed out that the company did not insure against riots.

The Khartoum state Transportation Company also announced that they incurred heavy losses as a result of vandalism that targeted its fleet causing a disruption of service.

The public transportation company said that 15 buses were completely destroyed by fire while another 105 were partially damaged due to shattered glass and doors.

48 HOURS INTERNET SHUTDOWN

A group calling itself ‘The Alliance of the Youth of the Sudanese Revolution’ called on the people to continue demonstrating peacefully until the regime is toppled.

It urged all sections of the Sudanese people including the army and security bodies to unite behind these goals.

On Thursday, Sudan TV announced that internet access will be cut off staring midnight and for the next 48 hours without saying why. But social media networks saw the circulation of calls for demonstrations following tomorrow’s Friday prayers.

This follows a full internet shutdown on Wednesday but authorities offered conflicting reasons for that.

Ahmed Bilal, the country’s information minister and government spokesperson, acknowledged in an interview with the pro-government Ashorooq TV the internet shutdown saying that the government has exercised "plenty of self-restraint" but promised that the cyber-blackout will soon end.

But the Sudanese embassy in Washington denied in a statement yesterday that this was deliberate and blamed it on the unrest.

"The Government of Sudan did not block internet access. Among other targets, violent protesters burned facilities of Canar Telecommunications Company, which hosts the core base of internet services for Sudan. These fires resulted in continuing internet black outs across Sudan," it added.

"The Government of Sudan and Canar Telecom have now partially restored internet service and will work until internet access is fully restored".

But a private sector telecoms official told Reuters the government had blocked the Internet without consulting telecoms firms.

Renesys Corp., a company that maps the pathways of the Internet, said according to Associated Press that it could not confirm whether the blackout was government-orchestrated. But the outage recalls a similarly dramatic outage in Egypt, Sudan’s neighbor, when authorities shut off Internet access during that country’s 2011 uprising.

"It’s either a government-directed thing or some very catastrophic technological failure that just happens to coincide with violent riots happening in the city," said senior analyst Doug Madory. He said it was almost a "total blackout."

(ST)

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