KHARTOUM: More than 30 people were arrested on Friday when police fired tear gas at a mosque which has become a focus of Arab Spring-style Friday protests in Sudan, a senior opposition figure said.
About 200 people were still inside the besieged Wad Nubawi mosque but many others had already fled from the tear gas, said Mariam al-Mahdi, a politbureau member of the Umma Party linked to the mosque in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman.
"They hit them massively with the nerve gas," said Mahdi, daughter of former prime minister Sadiq al-Mahdi who leads the party. There were "many casualties" because people were suffocating from the gas.
Security forces have responded with increasingly aggressive tactics, using gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition mostly fired into the air, since June 22 when small demonstrations began at the mosque after Friday prayers, she told AFP in an interview earlier this week.
Hundreds of youths, party members and others who held a sit-in at the mosque on July 6 were also besieged by security forces, she said.
Protests in Sudan began on June 16 when University of Khartoum students voiced their opposition to high food prices.
After President Omar al-Bashir announced austerity measures, including tax hikes and an end to cheap fuel, scattered protests spread to include a cross-section of people around the capital and in other parts of Sudan.