In the latest crackdown against protests in Sudan, security services loyal to President Omar al-Bashir have killed at least seven anti-government protesters taking part in a mass sit-in outside the army headquarters in the capital, Khartoum, according to activists behind the demonstration.

Tuesday’s deaths brought the total number of people killed during the protests since it started on Saturday to 21, including five soldiers who were killed while defending the protesters, the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD), said in a statement.

The CCSD, which is affiliated with the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the umbrella group at the forefront of the demonstrations, said 153 others were wounded. It said it expects the death toll to increase since some injuries were critical.

The government on Monday put the death toll since the weekend at seven.

The sit-in outside the complex, which also houses Bashir’s official residence, is the latest in a succession of anti-government demonstrations which have plunged Sudan into a major political crisis.

The protests – organised by doctors, teachers and lawyers, among others – erupted in December over rising bread prices before morphing into demands for the president to step down after three decades in power. More than 60 people have been killed since the demonstrations began, according to activists.

Protest organisers alleged forces belonging to the widely-feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition in a bid to disperse the thousands of demonstrators who have camped out at the Khartoum complex, prompting some members of the army to attempt to protect those demonstrating.

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