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Sudanese army blocks attempt to disperse protesters

KHARTOUM. — Sudanese soldiers intervened to protect demonstrators yesterday after security forces tried to break up a sit-in of thousands of anti-government demonstrators outside the defence ministry in Khartoum, witnesses and activists said.

Prominent opposition leaders joined protesters as a group for the first time in some three months of unrest, addressing demonstrators massed outside the ministry compound for the past two days, witnesses said.

The leaders reiterated their demand for President Omar al- Bashir and his government to step down immediately.

The interior minister told parliament that six people had been killed on Saturday and Sunday in disturbances in Khartoum, and one in the western region of Darfur.

Frequent protests have been staged in Sudan since December, when the government tried to raise bread prices, building into the most sustained challenge yet to al-Bashir, a former army general who came to power in a military coup in 1989.

On Saturday, protesters marched toward the defense ministry hoping to deliver a memorandum urging the army to side with them.

They reached the ministry compound, which includes Bashir’s residence and the secret service headquarters, despite attempts by security forces to stop them, and set up a camp.

The number of protesters outside the compound continued to grow on Monday despite the closure of all roads leading there, witnesses said.

Early on Monday, witnesses and activists said riot police and secret service personnel charged the demonstrators with pickup trucks while firing tear gas, trying to disperse a crowd estimated at 3 000 men and women. — Reuters.

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