Omar Al Bashir loyalists call for rally in support of embattled Sudanese leader

The longstanding leader is facing calls to step down from protesters and western governments

Demonstrators salute soldiers during a protest in Khartoum, Sudan April 10, 2019 in this still image taken from a video obtained from social media. TWITTER/@THAWRAGYSD/via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
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Sudan’s ruling party called for a rally to be held in support of President Omar Al Bashir in Khartoum on Thursday, an indication the government will make few concessions to a four-month protest movement calling for the long-standing leader to resign.

The US, Britain and Norway announced their support for the protesters on Tuesday and echoed calls for a political transition.

But Sudan's ruling party, the National Congress Party, wants to show there is still broad support for Mr Al Bashir by holding a rally in the capital.

"The National Congress Party's executive bureau supports the national dialogue partners' initiative to organise a gathering to be seen by all the people on Thursday," the acting head of Sudan's ruling party, Ahmed Harun, said on Tuesday.

"I call on all members of the NCP across the state of Khartoum to participate in this rally."

Mr Harun said the rally would "show that there are social and political powers that are committed towards peace, security and stability in Sudan".

The US, Britain and Norway issued a joint statement supporting a change of leadership in the country.

"The time has come for the Sudanese authorities to respond to these popular demands in a serious way," the diplomatic missions of the three countries said.

"The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition."

Washington imposed a trade embargo on Sudan in 1997 for Khartoum's alleged links to extremist groups, sanctions that were not withdrawn for about 20 years.

The protests against Mr Al Bashir intensified for a fifth day on Wednesday as thousands of Sudanese continued to hold a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum.

Demonstrators continued to throng the sprawling complex through the night, singing and dancing to revolutionary songs, witnesses said.

"The night passed without any incident," said one protester, who spent the night outside the military site.

"We believe that the support from the soldiers on the ground and now the police is definitely growing."

Protesters have faced volleys of teargas from members of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service since the sit-in began on April 6, organisers said.

But the protesters did not face any action from the security forces on Tuesday night, the protester said.

"The soldiers at the complex are also angry after the attacks of teargas and are determined to prevent them," another demonstrator told Agence France-Presse.

Witnesses said the military stationed several vehicles loaded with machineguns at the gates of the complex.

On Tuesday, security agents were forced to abandon efforts to disperse the crowd when soldiers fired gunshots into the air in response to the use of teargas by the security forces.

"It seems the police are now with us too," a protester said. "When we came to the army building we saw many policemen, but they did not stop us."

The police on Tuesday ordered its officers not to intervene against the demonstrators.

"We call on God to preserve the security and calm of our country and to unite the Sudanese people, and for an agreement that would support the peaceful transition of power," a police spokesman said.

On Wednesday, protesters continued to raise funds to ensure a regular supply of food and water for the crowd.

"Many shop owners and businessmen have offered us free supplies," said one demonstrator.

Organisers launched their latest campaign on April 6 as part of a months-long movement against Mr Al Bashir's 30-year rule.

Demonstrations began on December 19 in response to a government decision to triple the price of bread.

But the movement quickly evolved into a nationwide campaign against Mr Al Bashir's rule, with rallies held across Sudan.

Mr Al Bashir has been defiant despite the protests, and imposed a series of tough measures, such as declaring a state of emergency.

Government officials said 38 people have been killed in protest-related violence so far.