Sudanese Protest Death Toll Reaches 67 as Internet Cut Off

At least 64 people died in Sudan yesterday in a third day of protests over the government’s scrapping of fuel subsidies, a hospital official said.

The bodies of the dead were brought to two hospitals in the greater Khartoum area, Sayed Qannat, a doctor at Omdurman hospital, said today by phone. At least 319 people were being treated for gunshot wounds, he said. Three people died in the previous two days, according to state media.

The government dispatched troops and police to contain the demonstrations “with utmost firmness,” the state-run SUNA news agency reported, citing a statement by the Khartoum state security coordination committee. Sudanese police spokesman al-Ser Ahmed Omar didn’t answer three phone calls seeking comment.

The protests followed a Sept. 23 decision by the cabinet to raise prices for fuel. That lifted the cost of gasoline to 14 pounds ($3.17) per gallon from 8 pounds, while public transportation tariffs jumped 26 percent. President Umar al-Bashir defended the decision, saying fuel subsidies threatened the economy more than removing them.

Internet access was cut throughout Sudan, according to Renesys Corp., a Manchester, New Hampshire-based Web-monitoring company. Activists had been sharing images and videos of the demonstrations on social media.

Renesys said the Internet cutoff was “the largest national blackout since Egypt disconnected itself in January 2011” when the goverment of then-President Hosni Mubarak tried to quash protests against his rule.

Internet Cutoff

The government denied it was responsible for the cutoff and said protesters burned facilities of Canar Telecommunications Company, which hosts the main base of Internet services for Sudan, state-run SUNA news agency said.

The main opposition parties, including the National Umma Party, the Popular Congress Party and the Communist Party, rejected the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies and vowed to mobilize protests against it.

“Government knows these measure are rejected, and by taking them it’s standing against the large popular base,” opposition leader and head of the Umma party Sadig al-Mahdi said at a press conference aired yesterday on Sudan’s al-Shorouk television.

Sudan’s economy contracted 4.4 percent in 2012 after newly independent South Sudan took three-quarters of the formerly united country’s oil output of 490,000 barrels a day.

The economy was also hit by a loss of revenue after South Sudan stopped oil production in January 2012 in a dispute over export fees that brought the two countries to the brink of war.

South Sudan restarted output in April after an agreement to resume transfers, and the first shipment may arrive at Port Sudan by the end of May.

Sudan’s gross domestic product is expected to expand 1.2 percent this year and 2.6 percent in 2014, according to the International Monetary Fund’s World Economic Outlook published on April 16.

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