KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudanese security forces in pickup trucks opened fire Saturday on hundreds of mourners marching after the funeral of a protester killed a day earlier, the latest violence in a week of demonstrations calling for the ouster of longtime President Omar al-Bashir.
The man killed was a pharmacist from a prominent family, suggesting the heavy security crackdown could deepen discontent, spread unrest, and upset the complex network of power centers Bashir relies upon to stay in power.
Three female protesters interviewed separately said dozens of pickup trucks and security forces surrounded them in a main street in the capital Khartoum before firing tear gas and live ammunition.
It was not possible to independently verify their account, but Sudanese activists and international rights groups say government security forces have routinely used live fire against protesters.
One of the three women was waiting at a hospital where she said two relatives were being treated for gunshot wounds.
The violent crackdown that aims to quash Sudan’s most extensive street demonstrations in two decades could now actually be propelling them, activists said.
‘‘The excessive use of force means that the regime is becoming bare of any political cover and it is declaring a war against its own people,’’ said Khaled Omar, a member of the Change Now youth movement, one of the groups calling for protests. ‘‘This will backfire internally, inside the regime itself and cause cracks within and lead to its collapse,’’ he said, voicing a forecast espoused among activists.
The protests were initially triggered by the lifting of fuel and wheat subsidies. But over the past days demands have escalated to call for the resignation of Bashir, who has ruled for 24 years.
‘‘The cars came from the back and the front while we were marching in the street,’’ another female protester said. ‘‘The tear gas was very strong. The people fled trying to escape, taking shelter inside homes.’’
In the day, women, crying and hugging, blocked a side-street to prevent police from deploying to the funeral of 26-year-old pharmacist Salah al-Sanhouri. His family says he was shot outside his pharmacy as a march went by Friday, on the same street where the protest came under attack again on Saturday.
The death toll from a week of protests is sharply contested. Amnesty International and the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies have accused the government of using a ‘‘shoot to kill’’ policy against protesters, saying they had documented 50 deaths in rioting Tuesday and Wednesday alone.
Youth activists and doctors at a Khartoum hospital said at least 100 people have been killed since Monday. Police have reported at least 30 deaths nationwide, including officers. Official statements have often blamed unknown gunmen for attacking protesters.
‘‘Repression is not the answer to Sudan’s political and economic problems,’’ said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch in a statement Saturday. ‘‘Sudan’s authorities need to rein in the security forces and make it clear that using excessive force is not allowed.”
Activists have begun to compile pictures, names, and personal details of each protester killed.
The government appears to be trying to impose a media blackout. Gulf-based satellite broadcasters Sky News Arabia and Al-Arabiya said their Khartoum offices were ordered shut by the government. Sudanese news outlets online have reported photographers were barred from covering the protests, while editors have said they were ordered to describe protesters as ‘‘saboteurs.’’
Two editors, who spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals, said a total of three newspapers had seen issues confiscated and another three had been forced to stop printing, prompting a group of journalists to call for a general strike.