KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese police crushed two small anti-government protests on Monday with teargas when youths began a second attempt to emulate popular uprisings in neighbouring Libya and Egypt.
Hit by an economic crisis with rising inflation and political uncertainty as the oil-producing south voted to secede ending decades of civil war, Khartoum is vulnerable. But the protest movement seemed to have lost momentum earlier in the year when police arrested or beat back thousands of youths.
On Monday, heavily armed police surrounded universities in north Sudan and deployed throughout the capital Khartoum.
Two witnesses told Reuters dozens of youths shouting "freedom, freedom" were beaten back by baton-wielding police using teargas near Khartoum's main bus station.
In Wad Medani, the capital of Sudan's agricultural heartland, some 250 demonstrators took over the market before they were dispersed by police who arrested a number of the activists.
"They were shouting slogans like 'people want the regime to fall' and 'no to price rises'," said resident Sir al-Khatim who witnessed the protest.
Dozens of those arrested since the first anti-government protest on January 30 have said they have been tortured and beaten. Hundreds of others arrested were released without charge.
Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's government took power in a bloodless 1989 coup. Faced with calls for reform within his own ruling party, Bashir has said he will not stand again in presidential elections due in 2015.
He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide in the western Darfur region.
Sudan has suffered multiple civil wars since independence in 1955, leaving a heavily armed population and exacerbating tribal tensions.