CAIRO (AP) — Three Sudanese protesters were killed in clashes between police and demonstrators calling on longtime President Omar al-Bashir to step down, activists said Thursday, in the most violent protests seen in the Sudanese capital since anti-government demonstrations erupted across much of Sudan three weeks ago.
They said the three were killed Wednesday in Omdurman, twin city of the Sudanese capital Khartoum, where several thousand protesters tried to march on Parliament to submit a note demanding that al-Bashir resign. They said eight others were injured. They said police used tear gas and fired in the air to disperse the protesters, the latest such clashes in three weeks of anti-government demonstrations initially sparked by price rises and shortages.
The activists said at least two of the three died of gunshot wounds in what they described as the most violent clashes between police and protesters in the Sudanese capital since the current wave of unrest began Dec 19.
The protesters and the police fought pitched battles well after nightfall, with riot police chasing protesters into small side streets only for them to regroup and try and resume their attempt to reach the Nile-side Parliament building.
Amnesty International on Thursday said members of Sudan's security forces entered an Omdurman hospital Wednesday night and fired live bullets and tear gas as they pursued protesters seeking treatment from gunshot wounds they sustained during Wednesday's demonstrations.
Calling the attack "an outrageous violation of international law," the London-based rights group demanded an urgent investigation that would hold the officers involved accountable. "The Government of Sudan must also take immediate action to stop the practice of shooting protesters and respect the Sudanese people's right to freedom of expression," said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty's deputy director for East Africa.
Omdurman is a traditional bastion of dissent and is a stronghold of supporters of the large but fractured Umma party of former prime minister Sadeq al-Mahdi.
Umm Kalthoum, a 25-year-old university graduate, was among those who protested for hours Wednesday, braving the tear gas and the live ammunition.
"This regime must go because conditions are worsening by the day," she said, explaining that she works as a cleaner in company offices for lack of a job better suited for her accounting degree. "I had to cast aside my fear and hesitation and go out and protest. This is my first protest. I have no other choice," said Umm Kalthoum, out of breath and wearing a mask to fend off tear gas. She did not want to give her full name for fear of reprisals.
Another protester, Ahmed, echoed Umm Kalthoum's despair over the economy.
"I am 29 and I am still single and I don't think I will ever marry if conditions continue the way they are now," he said in a barely audible voice after hours of chanting. "I cannot find work as an accountant so I am doing odd jobs when I find them," said Ahmed, who also wanted to be identified only by his first name for fear of reprisals.
Sudan's economy has stagnated for most of al-Bashir's rule. He has also failed to unite or keep the peace in the religiously and ethnically diverse nation, losing three quarters of Sudan's oil wealth when the mainly animist and Christian south seceded in 2011 following a referendum. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide in Sudan's western Darfur region.
An Islamist who has been in power since he led a military coup in 1989, he has said those seeking to oust him can only do so through elections. He has insisted that the protests are part of a foreign plot to undermine Sudan's "Islamic experience" and blamed the country's worsening economic crisis on international sanctions.
Already among the longest serving leaders in the region, al-Bashir hopes to win another term in office during elections next year. In a bid to placate popular anger over his economic policies, he has promised higher wages, continuing state subsidies on basic goods and more benefits for pensioners.
His promises have been dismissed by critics as untenable.
The activists earlier said there were only two fatalities from Wednesday's clashes, but they later said the body of a protester originally thought to be missing was found at a Khartoum hospital morgue.
Late last month, Sudanese authorities said 19 people, including two members of the security forces, were killed in the clashes. This week, they said more than 800 protesters have been detained. Human Rights Watch said Tuesday that at least 40 people have been killed. Al-Bashir has sought to justify the killing of protesters on religious grounds.