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Sudan Locks Out Internet as Protests Mount

FILE: A Sudanese man holds his phone with restricted internet access to social media platforms, in Khartoum, Jan. 1, 2019.

Sudan on Tuesday blocked internet access nationwide as pro-democracy activists marked the first anniversary of a coup that derailed the transition to civilian rule, with hunger and inflation throttling the country.

As demonstrations gathered across the northeast African country on Tuesday, authorities launched an "nation-scale internet disruption," online monitor NetBlocks said, a regular tactic when mass protests are planned.

Authorities in Khartoum ordered all public institutions, schools, and businesses shut Tuesday, as security forces deployed heavily throughout the city, blocking roads and bridges.

In Atbara, north of the capital Khartoum, hundreds of students on Tuesday took to the streets, resident Adel Mohamed said.

Waving Sudanese flags, protesters defied authorities who have launched repeated deadly crackdowns on past rallies, chanting "power to the people" and demanding that "soldiers go back to the barracks."

Protesters insisted that "the revolution [against military rule] continues", and called for the creation of "a politically and economically-free Sudan, a civil democratic Sudan."

A year ago to the day, army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan seized power and arrested the civilian leaders with whom he had agreed to share power in 2019, when mass protests compelled the army to depose one of its own, long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

For a year, near weekly anti-coup protests have been met with force, most recently on Sunday when a protester was killed by a bullet fired by security forces, according to pro-democracy medics.

At least 118 people have been killed while demanding a return to civilian rule, a condition for Western governments to resume crucial aid they had halted in response to the coup.

On Friday, 31 protesters were injured, including three who were hit in the eye by tear gas canisters, according to pro-democracy medics.

Western embassies on Monday urged security forces "to refrain from using violence against protesters and to fulfil their obligation to protect freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly."

No civilian leaders have taken up the mantle of the army chief's promised civilian government and international mediation efforts remain stalled.

"Sudan doesn't have the luxury of zero-sum games and political manoeuvres," UN envoy to Sudan Volker Perthes said Saturday. "All political actors need to put aside differences and focus on the best interest of the Sudanese people."