CAIRO (AP) — Sudan's top police chief ordered his forces Saturday to quell "firmly and immediately" anti-government demonstrations that have entered their seventh day, while opposition groups reported a security crackdown on their leading members.
Gen. Hashem Othman al-Hussein told his aides to confront the "riots ... and the groups behind them," the official SUNA news agency reported. It was a rare acknowledgement by the state media of demonstrations that have been concentrated in Khartoum but have also spread to a provincial capital.
Protesters are rejecting a government austerity plan that slashed subsidies and doubled the price of fuel and food. But they also appear to be inspired by Arab uprisings in neighboring Egypt and Libya and are demanding the ouster of longtime Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
Some videos shared on social websites show protesters chanting: "We won't be ruled by a dictator."
Gatherings have been quickly broken up by troops using tear gas, activists say, and in a new development, police have raided homes of the opposition.
Sudan's Ummah party said in a text message that at least three of its members were detained, including a member of its political bureau, Adam Gereir.
Siddique Tawer, a member of the Sudanese Baath party, said the party's spokesman Mohammed Diaa Eddin was arrested at his home early Saturday.
The arrest raids and new police directives are a sign of nervousness, Tawer said. "They are afraid of street action. They are trying to terrorize people," he said by telephone from al-Ubbayid, provincial capital of Northern Kordofan to the southwest. "They can't stop these protests. They are legitimate, against the government's economic policies, corruption and repression of freedoms."
In al-Ubbayid, a small number of university students demonstrated outside their campus on Saturday and were joined by passers-by, he said. Police fired gas canisters to break up the protests.
State-run radio had said earlier that 150 protesters attacked a group of policemen overnight, damaging one police vehicle and forcing the police to use tear gas to disperse them.
Spokesman for Sudan's ruling National Congress Party Badr Eddin Ahmed Ibrahim meanwhile dismissed the protests, saying they were largely led by university students and were used by opposition parties to agitate against the government.
"The opposition parties have no specific goals," he said, according to comments published by the semi-official Sudan Media Center website.