(Reuters/NAN) Authorities in Sudan have arrested at least nine opposition leaders and activists, ahead of fresh anti-government protests expected after weekly Muslim prayers, a Group of Civil Society Groups said on Friday.
The head of the media office at the National Intelligence and Security Service, however, denied any knowledge of the arrests.
Sudan has been rocked by more than a week of anti-government protests, sparked by rising prices, shortage of basic commodities and a cash crisis.
At least 19 people have died during the protests, including two military personnel, according to official figure while Sudan security forces dispersed protesters near Khartoum
A committee of professional organisations involved in the protests said in a statement that authorities had raided a meeting of opposition leaders in Khartoum.
They detained a total of nine people, including Siddiq Youssef, a senior leader of Sudan’s Communist Party, as well as leaders from the pan-Arab Ba’ath and Nasserist parties, the statement said.
The raid came after a coalition of opposition groups called for more protests after the weekly noon prayers on Friday.
14 leaders of one of Sudan’s two main opposition groupings were detained on Dec.22, and then released nine hours later.
Sudan has been gripped by a deep financial crisis that began in 2011 after the southern half of the country voted to secede, taking with it three-quarters of the country’s oil output.
The crisis was further aggravated by years of overspending and mismanagement.
Opposition groups blame President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled Sudan since 1989, for the mismanagement.
A series of economic measures, including sharp devaluation of the Sudanese pound in October, have failed to shore up the economy.
In January, Sudan was shaken by rare nationwide protests, triggered by high bread prices.
But the recent protests that began on Dec. 19 appear to be more serious.
Since the demonstrations began, police have used tear gas and sometimes live ammunition against demonstrators, residents say.
Putting the death toll at 19, Sudan’s information minister earlier blamed some of the deaths on scuffles between shop owners and what he described as looters.
He also told a news conference in Khartoum that 219 civilians and 187 members of security forces had been wounded in the protests.
The authorities have shuttered schools and declared curfews and a state of emergency in several regions.
Journalists at the daily Al-Sudani said one of their colleagues was beaten by security forces after protesters passed, next to the independent newspaper’s offices.