Sudanese security forces used “nerve gas” to incapacitate would-be demonstrators in the capital Khartoum on Friday, an opposition member has charged, whereas activists said the number of detainees has risen to 8,000 in the third week of anti-regime protests.
Police and plain-clothed security agents deployed heavily since the early hours of Friday around main mosques in the capital Khartoum ahead of planned weekly demonstrations as part of a protest movement that has been gripping the country for the last three weeks.
Activists named the protest the “The Friday of Aliens and Bubbles” to gibe President Al-Bashir’s description of the protesters in the first week of the unrest.
For the second week in a row, the most violent confrontation took place around Al-Sayid Abdel Rahman Al-Mahdi Mosque in Wad Nubawi area of Omdurman town.
Al-Sayid Abdel Rahman Al-Mahdi Mosque is one of the biggest in Omdurman and has been the epicenter of Friday’s protests. The mosque is also the stronghold of the Ansar religious sect which is affiliated to the opposition National Umma Party (NUP) led by Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi.
Al-Mahdi arrived to perform prayers in the mosques amid chants calling for the downfall of the regime. Eye-witnesses told reporters that as soon as the prayer ended, police forces besieging the area had fired heavy teargas inside the mosque in order to disperse the worshippers before they march out.
According to the same sources, the police also fired rubber bullets against those who tried to break the siege which lasted for several hours.
At the same time, plain-clothed agents of the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) were actively arresting individuals around the area. Activists report that some of those detained by the NISS were taken to unknown directions.
A leading opposition member, meanwhile, has accused security forces of using a type of “nerve gas” that induced paroxysms of paralyses and twitching.
Speaking in an interview, NUP member and daughter of the party leader, Maryam Al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, said during the siege of Al-Ansar mosque the police fired “nerve gas” that caused paralyses, twitching and suffocations among dozens of worshipers.
In an emailed statement, Maryam said that the regime is still “arrogant” in dealing with the protests. She called on the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) to hand power over to Sudanese people.
In a related context, witnesses slao said that security forces prevented crews of media organizations from covering the protests. Al-Jazzera reported that its cameraman was arrested while the correspondent of its online replica was detained for an hour and had his mobile phone confiscated.
In another spot, police and security forces besieging Al-Sayid Ali Mosque in Khartoum North used teargas and batons to break up hundreds of demonstrators who attempted to take to the streets following Friday’s prayer.
Al-Sayid Ali Mosque is the stronghold of the Khattmiya religious sect which has close ties to the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Mohammed Osman Al-Mirghani. DUP activists said that ten of their colleagues were arrested in the crackdown.
Small groups of protesters also staged demonstrations and clashed with the police in Al-Kalakla and Gabra areas of Khartoum town.
Hundreds of protesters also took to the streets following Friday prayer in Al-Obied, the capital of North Kordofan State. Witnesses said the protesters were chanting “we will not be ruled by Kafouri’s thief” in reference to President Al-Bashir who lives in Khartoum’s affluent neighborhood of Kafouri.
Police also used nerve gas and batons to disperse Al-Obied protesters.
The Sudanese Committee to Defend Rights and Freedoms (SCDRF), an activist group, on Friday issued a statement condemning the authorities for their continued “violations of human rights as well as sanctity of worshiping places” by firing teargas inside mosques.
SDRF called on the authorities to release all the individuals arrested since the protest movement erupted on 16 June in response to the government’s decision to implement austerity measures removing fuel subsidies and a plummeting economy.
“We are concerned by the situation of human rights in the country. We have setup an emergency room to monitor the events as they happen and track the continued deteriorations of rights and repression of peaceful demonstrations by force and firing of teargas on worshipers” SCDRF coordinator Farouq Mohammed Ibrahim said in the statement.
Ibrahim accused security authorities of using “excessive force” to confront peaceful demonstrators following Friday prayer in Omdurman, Khartoum North and Khartoum.
He also said that the number of those detained is increasing by the day. “We have news that the number of detainees had exceeded 8,000”
Local and international rights groups say that at least 8,000 protesters have been arrested since the protest movement started.
SCDRF official also condemned the beating and arrest of journalists and correspondents of media organizations while they cover the protests. He also said that Sudanese authorities are continuing to block websites whose reporting is deemed hostile.
Sudanese authorities arrested a number of journalists during the protests. Last month security authorities deported an Egyptian female correspondent of Bloomberg news.