Egypt backs Sudan government amid deadly protests

Foreign minister and intelligence chief visit Khartoum as official death toll is raised to 19

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (R) meets with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri (C) and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel (L) in the capital Khartoum on December 27, 2018. Egypt's foreign minister and intelligence chief are in Sudan for talks with government officials facing deadly protests and calls for President Omar al-Bashir to step down over price hikes. / AFP / ASHRAF SHAZLY
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Egypt has pledged support for Sudanese President Omar Al Bashir's government amid widespread protests triggered by high food prices that have left at least 19 dead, according to an updated official toll released on Thursday.

"Egypt is confident that Sudan will overcome the present situation," said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who flew to Sudan on Thursday along with intelligence chief General Abbas Kamel.

It was the first expression of support for Sudan's government by a top regional Arab official since the protests began on December 19.

"Egypt is always ready to support Sudan and the ability of Sudanese people as per the government of Sudan's vision and policies," Mr Shoukry said after meeting Mr Al Bashir at the presidential palace.

The "stability of Sudan means stability of Egypt", he said.

The government said on Thursday that 19 people had died during the protests, including two members of the security forces, raising its previous tally of eight dead.

Most were killed during "incidents of lootings", while 219 people were wounded, government spokesman Boshara Juma announced on state television on Thursday. Amnesty International has put the death toll at 37.

Sudanes activists and opposition groups have called on people to take to the streets again over the next few days.

"We urge the Sudanese people to continue their demonstrations until success is achieved by overthrowing the regime," the Sudanese Communist Party said in a statement.

Several members of the party have been arrested since the protests started.

"We also call on all opposition parties to unite and work together to co-ordinate this movement," the party said.

Adding to pressure on Mr Al Bashir's governing alliance, a minister in Northern State's provincial administration resigned on Thursday.

The resignation by the province's health minister Abdarouf Grnas - from the Umma Reform and Renewal Party - is the first by a senior official since the protests began.


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"We have one minister in North State and we decided to withdraw him because of the violence against protesters," party head Mubarak El Fadiel told AFP.

The Umma Reform and Renewal Party is a political faction that broke away from the country's main opposition National Umma Party led by Sadiq Al Mahdi, a former premier who was toppled by Mr Al Bashir in a 1989 coup.

The protests started in towns and villages over a week ago and spread to Khartoum, as people rallied against the government raising the price of a loaf of bread from one Sudanese pound to three.

Demonstrators have been marching against Sudan's dire economic situation and some have called for the president to resign.

Mr Al Bashir has blamed the the protests on foreign countries and “mercenaries", but vowed to make "real reforms" to tackle the country's financial difficulties.

Sudan is facing an acute foreign currency crisis and soaring inflation, despite Washington lifting an economic embargo in October 2017.

Inflation is running at 70 per cent and the Sudanese pound has plunged in value, while shortages of bread and fuel have regularly hit several cities.