Sudan’s military has launched a coup attempt, arresting the prime minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior ministers during overnight raids, as thousands of people protested in the capital, Khartoum.
Following weeks of escalating tensions between military and civilian members of the country’s transitional sovereign council, and rival street protests, Sudan’s information ministry said “joint military forces” had arrested civilian council members and government officials and taken them to an undisclosed location.
As news of the coup spread, large numbers of anti-military protesters converged on key streets in Khartoum, pushing past barriers outside the military headquarters where clashes and injuries were reported.
Images posted on social media appeared showed large crowds marching on Khartoum’s central Africa Street which runs from near the city’s international airport towards the centre of the city.
The US, which has been mediating in Sudan, condemned the arrests and threatened to withhold assistance, and domestic opponents of the military opposition called for nationwide protests and a general strike.
Hamdok had refused to issue a statement in support of a coup, the information ministry said, adding that the internet had been cut off and that military forces had closed bridges..
The country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music and scenes of the Nile river.
Witnesses in the Sudanese capital described security forces from the military and from the powerful, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces stationed in the streets.
Earlier the Dubai-based Al-Hadath television channel reported that security forces had surrounded Hamdok’s house and placed him under house arrest.
In the immediate aftermath of the arrests the director of Hamdok’s office told al Arabiya that the military had deliberately stirred unrest in Sudan to precipitate a crisis and implement a coup.
Sudan has experienced a number of coups since it gained independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. The country has been on edge since a failed coup plot last month unleashed bitter recriminations between military and civilian groups meant to be sharing power following the ousting in 2019 of former autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir. Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup that removed the country’s last elected government.
Jeffrey Feltman, the US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, met military and civilian leaders over the weekend in attempt at mediation. On Monday he said the US was “deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government”.
The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the bloc expressed its “utmost concern”.
“The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process,” Borrell wrote on Twitter, referring to the fragile transition from autocracy to democracy that was supposed to follow Bashir’s departure.
Sudan’s main pro-democratic political group, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, said at least five senior government officials had been detained, and called on people to take to the street to counter the apparent coup action.
Images on social media showed at least one minister, Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, being taken from his home under cover of darkness, confirmed to Al Jazeera by al-Sheikh’s daughter.
Ayman Khalid, governor of the state containing the capital, Khartoum, was also arrested, according to the official Facebook page of his office.
A disparate alliance including warlords, military, militia leaders and former Bashir regime loyalists have been calling for the restoration of military rule.
The Umma Party, the country’s largest, described the arrests as an attempted coup, and called for people to take to the streets. By Monday morning protesters were gathering in several locations, some blocking streets and burning tires.
The SPA, the main activist coalition in the uprising against Bashir, called on supporters to mobilise. “We urge the masses to go out on the streets and occupy them, close all roads with barricades, stage a general labour strike, and not to cooperate with the putschists and use civil disobedience to confront them,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.
NetBlocks, a group which tracks disruptions across the internet, said on Monday it had seen a “significant disruption” to fixed-line and mobile internet connections across Sudan with multiple providers.
“Metrics corroborate user reports network disruptions appearing consistent with an internet shutdown,” the advocacy group said. “The disruption is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the ground.”
With Associated Press and Reuters