Khartoum — Police authorities in Sudan sought on Saturday to play down their response to the anti-regime protests of yesterday, saying they used minimum force to confront "small groups of rioters", while opposition groups spoke of torture and abduction of protesters.
In a statement published by the official news agency SUNA, the police press office said that the security situation in all towns and states of Sudan was "stable" following what it called the taking to the street by small groups of rioters.
The police statement refers to the demonstrations that broke out following Friday's prayer in several parts of the capital Khartoum and at least 10 regional towns including Al-Obied in North Kordofan and Madani in Al-Jazzera State as planned by opposition groups under the name "the elbow-licking Friday" of the Sudan Revolt campaign against the rule of President Omer Al-Bashir's ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
Heavily deployed police and plainclothes security forces used teargas, batons and rubber bullets to break up the protests which initially started two weeks ago in response to government austerity plans of lifting fuel and sugar subsidies to make up for what officials say is a budget deficit of 2.4 billion US dollars.
Opposition groups including the Islamist Popular Congress Party (PCP) and the youth group Girifna reported that many of their activists have been arrested or sustained injuries during the crackdown.
According to the police statement, however, the authorities used "the least amount of civil force" to confront the protests without there being any causalities or losses incurred in the process.
The statement confirmed that "some rioters" were arrested and will be brought to trial. The police statement further expressed confidence that citizens will not heed any attempt to "create chaos or undermine security."
PCP officials who requested anonymity told Sudan Tribune that the National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) has been waging a campaign of arrests among its members since the protests that erupted following Friday's protests in Al-Obied town of North Kordofan State.
On the other hand, security authorities in North Kordofan on Saturday issued a statement denying any arrests among PCP members. Their statement said that a "limited" number of people who attempted to cause riot following Friday prayer had been arrested and charged.
Girifna and other groups published photos on the internet of people with marks of lashing on their backs. The groups also said that the regime's Rabata, the name activists use in reference to plainclothes security agents, abducted some of the protesters and took them to unknown destinations.
Meanwhile, the former presidential candidate and member of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Hatim Al-Sir, condemned the use of violence by Khartoum security authorities against "peaceful" demonstrations. Al-Sir said that the police had "crossed all redlines" by firing teargas inside two mosques in Omdurman and Khartoum North to disperse would-be demonstrators.
The DUP figure, whose party parted ways with opposition allies in December last year to join the government, went on to launch severe attack on the Sudanese regime, saying it never learns from its mistakes and calling for its downfall.
He further expressed anger over the "brutality" with which protesters have been met, stressing that this approach will not deter people from peaceful demonstrations until their demands are met. He also said that all the arrests among activists will not scare them but fuel them to protest more. "If the rulers wanted reform, they should bow to the demands of the people otherwise they will pay the heavy price alone"
According to Al-Sir, security forces raided the mosque of Al-Said Ali Al-Mirghani in Khartoum North and arrested a number of DUP youth members who were then taken to an unknown destination.
Rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) issued statements this month calling on Sudan to end crackdown on peaceful demonstrations and release all detainees.
According to HRW, Sudan security forces have arrested scores of protesters, opposition members, and journalists, beat people in detention, and used rubber bullets and even live ammunition to break up protests.