By AP/ Al Jazeera
Police used tear gas and fired in the air Tuesday to disperse thousands of protesters attempting to march on the presidential palace to demand that Omar Bashir, Sudan’s president of 29 years, step down, according to activists and video clips posted online.
The clips purported to show crowds of several hundred each gathering on side roads and headed toward the palace on the bank of the Blue Nile in the heart of Khartoum.
They sang patriotic songs and chanted “freedom,” ″peaceful, peaceful against the thieves” and “The people want to bring down the regime.”
The latter was the most popular slogan of the 2010 and 2011 Arab Spring revolts.
One clip showed the lifeless body of a protester in Khartoum being carried away and placed inside a car that drove away.
The protester’s head showed a gaping wound and the voice of another protester could be heard saying he was deliberately shot by a sniper.
Earlier images circulated by activists showed police snipers on rooftops near the palace ahead of the march.
Another clip purported to show two other protesters suffering gunshot wounds to the head and the legs as they were being attended to in a clinic.
Large numbers of security forces were deployed across much of Khartoum Tuesday in anticipation of the march, with soldiers riding in all-terrain vehicles.
Police fired in the air, used tear gas and hit demonstrators with batons to disperse them, only for the crowds to assemble again and try and continue their march in pitched battles.
Activists said the battles continued after nightfall.
The protest was called by an umbrella of independent professional unions and supported by the country’s largest political parties, Umma and Democratic Unionist.
Protesters ask Bashir to resign
The organizers want to submit a petition demanding that Bashir, in power since he seized power in a 1989 military coup, step down.
Tuesday’s march follows nearly a week of protests initially sparked by rising prices and shortages of food and fuel, but which later escalated into calls for Bashir to go.
The Sudanese leader was in the al-Jazeera region south of Khartoum on a previously scheduled visit Tuesday.
Live TV coverage showed him addressing supporters there in a rally and the country’s state news agency said he inaugurated a road and a girls’ school there.
Bashir promises reforms
While Omar al-Bashir vows ‘real reforms’ to improve living standards, protesters demand that he should resign.
Bashir has vowed to introduce some “real reforms” even as trade unions and professional associations plan a mass rally in the capital, Khartoum, asking him to step down.
In his first public comments since the anti-government protests began in Atbara city seven days ago, Bashir on Monday warned the protesters to not respond to attempts “at sowing discord” in the country.
The demonstrations are the biggest in several years against Bashir’s 29-year rule, with protesters enraged over rising prices, shortage of basic goods and a cash crisis.
The official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) quoted Bashir as saying that the state was “continuing with economic reforms that provide citizens with a decent life”.
The National Umma Party, one of the country’s top opposition parties, has supported the march to the presidential palace and calls for Bashir’s removal from power.
Its leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, Sudan’s last democratically elected prime minister until he was overthrown by Bashir in a coup in 1989, returned to Sudan on Wednesday and called for a democratic transition.
‘No specific plan’
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said Bashir did not specify his plan for economic reforms that provide citizens with a decent life.
“The president said he is going to offer reforms, but he did not mention how and what kind of reforms is he planning,” she said.
“Meanwhile, people are saying they don’t want any reforms since his government hasn’t done much in decades of rule.”
Government officials blame the unrest on “infiltrators”. Officials have recorded at least 12 deaths, though Amnesty International on Monday said it has “credible reports” that Sudanese police have killed at least 37 protesters in clashes during anti-government demonstrations.
Security forces in Sudan’s Sennar state arrested 25 people for “working to incite sabotage” and “planning to burn the Sennar municipal building and a number of governmental and private institutions”, SUNA reported on Monday.