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KHARTOUM: Sudan’s security chief has ordered the release of people detained during weeks of anti-government protests, the Information Ministry said on Tuesday, as demonstrations continued in several cities.

The ministry was confirming reports by activists that Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh, the head of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), visited a prison in the capital Khartoum and said arrested protesters would be freed.

No further details were available. Hundreds of protesters, activists and opposition figures have been arrested since protests began to spread across Sudan on Dec. 19.

The demonstrations, triggered by a worsening economic crisis, have called for an end to the rule of President Omar Bashir who has been in power since 1989.

Police used tear gas on Tuesday to disperse dozens of demonstrators in Khartoum’s Burri neighborhood and hundreds who gathered in its twin city of Omdurman, witnesses said.

“It may take months, but I’m confident we will succeed,” said Reem, a 25-year-old housewife facing off against clouds of tear gas in Omdurman. Hundreds also demonstrated in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan and chanted anti-government slogans.

Tuesday’s demonstrations, called by unions and opposition activists, fell on the anniversary of the 2005 killing of protesters in Port Sudan during an earlier period of demonstrations against Bashir’s long rule. Protests also took place there.

The latest rallies were the largest in several days, as Sudanese have taken to demonstrating in local squares and neighborhoods sometimes blocked off with cars or makeshift barricades. 

The current wave of protests began on Dec. 19 in opposition to surging prices and a failing economy, but quickly shifted to calls for an end to Bashir’s nearly three-decade rule.

A devaluation of the currency in October pushed up prices, but lifting state subsidies on bread last month proved to be the final stroke, sparking the unrest. A cash crunch also led to long lines at ATMs and limits on cash withdrawals. Similarly, a fuel shortage meant hours-long waits at gas stations.

Bashir, who seized power in a military coup in 1989, insists that only elections, which he intends to run in, could bring change.

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