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Sudan opposition deputy arrested hours after government pledges to release detained protesters

Security agents detained senior opposition leader Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi on Wednesday [AFP]

Date of publication: 30 January, 2019

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Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi was taken away from her home in Khartoum by officers of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) on early on Wednesday.
Security agents detained a senior leader in Sudan's main opposition party on Wednesday, her family said, as authorities pressed on with a crackdown on anti-government protests that have rocked the country.

The detention of Mariam Sadiq al-Mahdi, deputy chief of the Umma Party, comes a day after authorities ordered the release of all detainees held in nationwide protests since December.

Mariam was taken away from her home in Khartoum by officers of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), her sister Rabah Sadiq al-Mahdi told AFP.

"The NISS officers came in two vehicles at 10:30am (8:30am GMT). They told Mariam's husband that they had to question her," Rabah said.

"The officers said they would bring her back but she still has not returned and her mobile phone is switched off."

As Umma's deputy head, Mariam has regularly campaigned against President Omar al-Bashir's government.

Her father, former premier Sadiq al-Mahdi, has backed the protest movement calling for an end to Bashir's three-decade rule.

Bashir swept to power in 1989 in an Islamist-backed coup that toppled a democratically-elected government led by Mahdi.

"This regime has to go immediately," Mahdi told hundreds of worshippers at a mosque in Omdurman at weekly prayers last Friday.

After nearly a year in exile, Mahdi returned to Sudan on December 19, the same day as the wave of protests erupted against the government.

On Tuesday, NISS head Salah Ghosh had ordered the release of all detainees held during anti-government rallies.

It was still unclear how many detainees had been released.

Rights groups say more than 1,000 protesters, opposition leaders, activists and journalists have been arrested in an NISS-led crackdown to quell the protests.

Deadly protests have rocked Sudan for weeks, with officials confirming that 30 people died in clashes with security forces during the demonstrations.

Rights groups have put the death toll at more than 40.

The protests that initially erupted against the rise of bread prices have mushroomed into nationwide rallies calling for an end to Bashir's rule.

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