Last updated: 13 October, 2013

Sudan’s Bashir in Saudi Arabia for hajj

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has arrived in Saudi Arabia to perform the hajj with other Muslim pilgrims, official media said on Sunday, after dozens died in his country during recent protests.

Bashir “arrives in Jeddah to perform hajj,” the state SUNA news agency reported.

About two million Muslims, a majority of them foreigners, poured out of the holy city of Mecca on Sunday to begin the annual hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam that every capable Muslim must perform at least once.

Bashir’s September 23 cut in fuel subsidies sent thousands of people, many of them Khartoum-area poor, onto the streets to protest as petrol prices rose more than 60 percent.

The demonstrations and their Arab Spring-inspired calls for the downfall of the regime were the worst urban unrest of Bashir’s 24-year rule.

Amnesty International says security forces are believed to have killed more than 200 protesters, many of whom were shot in the head or chest.

Authorities have reported 60 to 70 deaths, and say they had to intervene when crowds turned violent, attacking petrol stations and police.

Several hundreds people were initially detained and the government said last week that about 200 were still being held to face trial.