Violent protests against the Sudanese government's decision to cut fuel subsidies raged into a third day and turned deadly Wednesday, as public transport came to a halt and riots broke out in and around the capital, Khartoum. Earlier in the week, the government announced steep price increases for petroleum products as it suspended subsidies in an attempt to reform the economy.
Six protesters have died during demonstrations in Khartoum, according to medics and relatives of the victims.
Demonstrations spread Wednesday to several districts of the capital. The protesters, many of whom were students, chanted "Freedom, freedom" and "The people want the fall of the regime" -- borrowing a refrain from many Arab Spring protests, which ousted several governments across the Middle East and northern Africa in 2011.
The rioting started after Sudan's Council of Ministers decided to lift the subsidies, immediately doubling prices of gasoline and fuel. Oil prices at the pump have shot up to $4.71 a gallon from $2.83; diesel has risen from $1.90 a gallon to $3.16. Inflation in Sudan is already running at 40 percent.
Police, who made about 20 arrests and sealed off a section of the main road to Khartoum airport, fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators.
Vehicles were burned in the parking lot of a luxury hotel just 500 yards from the international airport, and a gas station in the area was set alight.
Shops were closed in Khartoum and nearby Omdurman, with several roads cut by protesters who blocked access with tree trunks and burned tires, sending black smoke billowing into the sky.
The riots, which began in the state of Gezira, south of Khartoum, have also turned into a call for the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir, who has ruled the country for more than two decades.
Sudan lost billions of dollars in oil revenue when South Sudan gained independence two years ago, taking with it about 75 percent of the formerly united country's crude production. Since then Sudan has been plagued by inflation, a weakened currency and a severe shortage of dollars to pay for imports.