KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Mourners in Sudan on Saturday buried protesters they say were shot to death by the government's security forces in the latest of a week-long wave of demonstrations against the government.
The regime of President Omar al-Bashir is trying to stop public anger over fuel price hikes from turning into an Arab Spring-style uprising against his 24-year rule. But a crackdown by security forces appears to be fueling the unrest.
The death toll is sharply contested. Youth activists and doctors at a Khartoum hospital told The Associated Press that at least 100 people died since Monday. Sudanese police have reported at least 30 deaths nationwide, including policemen. A precise account was almost impossible to obtain.
Early Saturday, women at the funeral of 26-year-old pharmacist Salah al-Sanhouri marched into the street chanting "Rebel! Rebel!" as his male relatives laid him to rest in a Khartoum cemetery. His relatives say he was shot in the street outside his pharmacy as a march went by Friday.
The unrest began early last week in the town of Wad Madani south of Khartoum when the government cut subsidies on fuel and gas, causing prices to leap.
Protesters say austerity measures are imposed on the poor as senior officials grow wealthy. "This is a government of thieves who looted the country and starved us," the slain pharmacist's uncle said. He refused to give his name for fear of reprisal.
Sudan's official SUNA news agency quoted police as saying that four died Friday after an "unidentified party" shot at protesters in several districts of Khartoum. It said that the security situation is "calm and stable across the country's states and life is normal," and that police protected protesters.
But witnesses say police, often poorly trained, use live ammunition and rubber bullets and shoot at chests and heads with the intent to kill.
The deaths have the potential to spread discontent among Sudan's powerful extended families. The Sanhouris are prominent in the capital, and one mourner identified himself as a senior official in the intelligence services.
Hospital officials confirmed the death of at least one other protester in Khartoum on Friday, but activists say that many more have died. The officials spoke anonymously as they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Though he maintains a strong grip on the regime, al-Bashir has been increasingly beleaguered. The economy has been worsening, especially after South Sudan broke off and became an independent state in 2011, taking Sudan's main oil-producing territory. Armed secessionist groups operate in several parts of the country. And al-Bashir himself, who came to power as head of a military-Islamist regime after a 1989 coup, is wanted by the International Criminal Court over alleged crimes in Sudan's western region of Darfur.