A tear gas canister fired to disperse Sudanese demonstrators, during anti-government protests in the outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan January 15 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
A tear gas canister fired to disperse Sudanese demonstrators, during anti-government protests in the outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan January 15 2019. Picture: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Khartoum — Sudanese police fired tear gas at crowds of anti-government protesters in Kassala, witnesses said on Wednesday, in the first such demonstration held in the eastern town bordering Eritrea.

Protesters chanting “freedom, justice and peace” took to the streets in downtown Kassala but were swiftly confronted by riot police, witnesses said by phone.

It came just days after crowds held a rally in the town in support of President Omar al-Bashir.

Witnesses said that as protesters came into the streets, shopkeepers shut their shops in the town's main market.

Deadly protests have rocked Sudan since December 19, when angry people demonstrated in towns and villages against a government decision to raise the price of bread.

At least 24 people have died in the protests that have swiftly turned into nationwide rallies in which demonstrators have called on Bashir to step down.

On January 7, supporters of Bashir had held a rally backing him in Kassala, the first such pro-government rally, which was followed days later by another in the capital.

Hundreds of people from Kassala and neighbouring towns and villages gathered in front of the local governorate to express their support for Bashir.

Kassala has been under a state of emergency since 2018, prompted by a government plan to collect illegal arms and to combat drugs and human trafficking.

AFP