Sudan braces for more protests over economic conditions

Sudanese doctors went on strike as the army pledged its loyalty to President Omar Bashir following days of increasingly violent protests calling for him to step down after three decades in power.

» RELATED: Sudan opposition calls grow for march on Bashir's palace

Police and national security forces used tear gas and live rounds on Sunday to disperse protesters who'd gathered after a soccer match and were trying to cross a bridge leading toward the presidential palace in the capital, Khartoum, according to Husameldin, a local resident who asked that his surname not be used because of concerns about government reprisals. As many as 11 people are reported to have died in the clashes, he said.

Widespread discontent with an economic crisis and soaring living costs have turned into calls for Bashir, 74, to step down, with activists using social media to try and organize more protests on Tuesday. At least eight people were killed in the capital and other cities last week, according to officials. The government hasn't commented on the casualties.

Doctors have said they'll go on an indefinite strike Monday in a bid to "paralyze" the government. The army took the unusual step Sunday of issuing a statement describing its forces as disciplined and loyal to Sudan's leaders.

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The demonstrations, which come amid acute cash shortages and inflation of almost 70 percent, represent one of the most serious challenges to al-Bashir, 74, since he took power in an Islamist-supported military coup in 1989. The African nation has faced sporadic protests ever since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which deprived the government in Khartoum of three-quarters of the united country's oil resources.

Protests by tens of thousands of people have taken place in at least 13 towns with nine people shot dead over two days by security forces, Amnesty International said Dec. 21. Former Prime Minister Sadig al-Mahdi, the leader of the main opposition party, has put the dead at 22 in the first three days of protests. 

» RELATED: Sudan soccer fans clash with police, call on Bashir to leave 

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