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Mass Protests Hits Sudan…Internet service has slowed and activists have accused the government of blocking social media

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani called Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Saturday to express his support for Sudan after days of anti-government protests, Bashir’s office said in a statement.

Since Wednesday, cities across Sudan have been shaken by protests triggered by an economic deterioration, with demonstrators calling for an end to Bashir’s 29-year rule. At least nine people have been killed in the protests, according to officials and witnesses, though casualty numbers are hard to confirm.

Internet service has slowed and activists have accused the government of blocking social media to stop protesters communicating. Authorities have blamed the protests on “infiltrators.”

“During the call Sheikh Tamim declared that his country stood with Sudan and was ready to offer all that was necessary to help Sudan overcome this ordeal, stressing his keenness for the stability and security of Sudan,” the statement said.

Qatar and its regional rivals have increasingly vied for influence in Sudan and other countries on the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Gulf states have also been an important source of funding for Sudan after it lost three-quarters of its oil output when the south seceded in 2011.

Israeli diplomats say there have been low-level contacts with Sudan in recent years, though the authorities there have been reluctant to acknowledge them publicly. Israel had seen Sudan as an Iranian ally and accused it of serving as a conduit for arms smuggling to Palestinians in Gaza. Israeli diplomats now say they believe Sudan has distanced itself from Iran.

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