Riot police in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, have used live ammunition and tear gas in an attempt to disperse protesters marching towards the presidential palace.
Video clips posted online appeared to show large crowds of several hundred people heading to the palace, located on the bank of the river Blue Nile in the heart of Khartoum.
The demonstrators could be heard singing patriotic songs and chanting, “Peaceful, peaceful against the thieves” and “The people want to bring down the regime”.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said calls for the president to step down were growing louder with people turning up in significant numbers for the protest, which had been planned for a number of days.
“[Protesters] seemed to agree they want to see change and the police had to use tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the crowd,” Morgan said.
“Unfortunately, for the police that is, people continued [marching]. We’ve heard people say they want the ‘regime’ to go, they want to see a new ‘regime.'”
“Even with the tear gas being fired at them, some people have been using headscarves and went on to proceed against the riot police with their demands that the president must leave.”
Tuesday’s protest was organised by The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella coalition for professional unions, and supported by the National Umma Party, one of the country’s top opposition parties.
They said they planned on marching to the palace and hand the presidency a memo calling for him to step down immediately.
In his first address to the nation since the anti-government protests began in Atbara city seven days ago, Sudan’s embattled President Omar al-Bashir on Monday vowed to introduce “real reforms” but warned the protesters to not respond to attempts “at sowing discord” in the country.
The demonstrations are the biggest in several years against Bashir’s 29-year rule, with protesters enraged over rising prices, shortage of basic goods and a cash crisis.
The official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) quoted Bashir as saying that the state was “continuing with economic reforms that provide citizens with a decent life”.
‘No specific plan’
Morgan said that Bashir did not specify his plan for economic reforms, which he said would provide citizens with a better life.
“The president said he is going to offer reforms, but he did not mention how and what kind of reforms is he planning,” the Al Jazeera correspondent said.
“Meanwhile, people are saying they don’t want any reforms since his government hasn’t done much in decades of rule.”
Government officials, however, blame the unrest on “infiltrators”. Officials have recorded at least 12 deaths, though Amnesty International on Monday said it has “credible reports” that police have killed at least 37 protesters in clashes during anti-government demonstrations.
Security forces in Sudan’s Sennar state arrested 25 people for “working to incite sabotage” and “planning to burn the Sennar municipal building and a number of governmental and private institutions”, SUNA reported on Monday.
Police reports were also filed against suspects for “crimes of sabotage” in Gadarif state, private TV channel Sudania 24 reported.
Authorities have shut schools and declared a state of emergency and curfews in several states.
Al Jazeera and news agencies