KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Eight Sudanese protesters killed this week at an anti-government demonstration in the Darfur region were shot with live ammunition used in automatic rifles, Amnesty International said, citing medical sources.
Police have said they were forced to act when Tuesday's protest escalated, but exercised only minimum force. They did not say whether they had fired live ammunition.
Sudan said eight people had been killed during the clashes between police and protesters in Nyala, Darfur's biggest town. Activists have published names of 12 people they say were killed in the worst violence since anti-government protests broke out in June.
"The Sudanese security forces must not be allowed to police demonstrations in such a reckless manner and with flagrant disregard for human life," the UK-based Amnesty International said in a statement late on Thursday.
Citing staff at Nyala Public Hospital, Amnesty said the eight bodies placed in a morgue had chest wounds caused by 5.56mm and 7.62mm automatic rifle ammunition, some inflicted at close range.
Other demonstrators were hurt when stray bullets shot in the air by security forces armed with Dushka-type heavy machine-guns came down, the group said.
Officials at the South Darfur state were not available for comment on Friday, a public holiday. The officials have said they launched an investigation into the deaths.
Sudan has avoided "Arab Spring" uprisings similar to those that broke out in Egypt or Tunisia, but discontent is growing against President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1989.
New austerity measures, such as the scaling back of fuel subsidies, sparked the protests in June.
Sudan has been mired in an economic crisis since South Sudan seceded a year ago, taking with it most of the crude oil production that is the lifeblood of both economies.
The insurgency in Darfur began in 2003, when Darfuris complaining of neglect by the central government took up arms.
The level of violence has subsided, but law and order have collapsed in many parts of the vast territory, and clashes between rebels and government forces persist.
(Reporting by Ulf Laessing)