KHARTOUM, Sudan — Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Wednesday dismissed opposition calls for an Arab Spring-style uprising in the African country, threatening that "a burning hot summer" awaits his enemies.
Demonstrations against price hikes have sprung up in the capital, Khartoum, and other major towns across Sudan in recent weeks.
The government cut public spending to compensate for the loss of about 70 percent of its revenues when South Sudan seceded a year ago, taking with it much of Sudan's oil wealth.
Protesters have also been chanting a refrain heard often in other regional uprisings: "The people demand the downfall of the regime."
"They talk of an Arab Spring. Let me tell them that in Sudan we have a hot summer, a burning hot summer that burns its enemies," al-Bashir told a large crowd while inaugurating a factory in central Sudan.
Waving a cane, al-Bashir warned that Sudan's enemies would also be skewered.
As with other Arab Spring uprisings, security forces and riot police have responded forcefully to put down the demonstrations.
The protests began in mid-June at Khartoum University against the austerity measures, which have increased the fares on public transportation and doubled the prices of food and fuel.
According to a statement Wednesday by the London-based rights group Amnesty International, Sudanese authorities have tortured protesters and arrested some 2,000 people in connection with the demonstrations.
Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 13 former detainees, who reported beatings, verbal insults, food, water and sleep deprivation and other mistreatment while in detention in Khartoum and its suburbs since mid-June.
Activists claim that security forces also used excessive force against a demonstration after last Friday's Muslim prayers in a suburb of Khartoum. Protesters said they were hit with rubber bullets, tear gas and were chased into the mosque, according to Amnesty International.
In recent days, demonstrators have also reported being attacked by pro-government students wielding sticks, knives and axes. Injured protesters are afraid to seek medical care, and state security agents have detained wounded protesters in hospitals, the rights group said.
Security officials have also arrested and detained journalists, lawyers, doctors, and members of youth groups and opposition parties not directly connected to the protests.
Calls have come from neighboring Egypt for the release of journalist Shaimaa Adel, who works for an independent Egyptian daily newspaper. She was in Sudan covering the protests when state security officers arrested her more than a week ago.
On Wednesday, Egypt's most powerful political party, the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, sent a letter to Sudan's president calling for her release "as a measure of respect for the strong bilateral relations between Cairo and Khartoum."