Sudanese army ‘blocks attempt to disperse protesters’

Sudanese army ‘blocks attempt to disperse protesters’

Sudanese army ‘blocks attempt to disperse protesters’

Sudanese soldiers intervened to protect demonstrators on April 8 after security forces tried to break up a protest by thousands of anti-government demonstrators camping outside the Defense Ministry in central Khartoum, witnesses and activists said.

They said that riot police and secret service personnel charged the demonstrators with pickup trucks while firing tear gas, trying to disperse a crowd estimated at around 3,000 men and women.

But witnesses and activists said that soldiers guarding the compound had come out to protect the demonstrators, firing warning shots in the air.

The security forces retreated without firing back and soldiers deployed around the area, while demonstrators chanted "The army is protecting us" and "One people, one army", witnesses said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Mostly small but sustained protests have been staged regularly since December when the government tried to raise bread prices.

Sudan's 40 million people are suffering from a severe economic crisis caused in part by years of U.S. sanctions and in part by the loss of oil revenues since South Sudan seceded in 2011.

The protests have since turned against the leader Omar al-Bashir, a former army general who came to power in a military coup in 1989.

Demonstrators accuse Bashir, who is wanted by international prosecutors for alleged war crimes in the westerly Darfur region, of presiding over years of repression and promoting policies that devastated the economy.

The government denies any atrocities in Darfur and blames U.S. sanctions for the economic hardships.

Omar al-Bashir ,