Sudan's military detains prime minister in apparent coup

CAIRO – Military officials arrested Sudan’s incumbent Prime Minister and senior government officials on Monday, disrupted internet access and blocked bridges in the capital, Khartoum, the country’s information ministry said, describing the actions as a coup.

In response, thousands flooded the streets of Khartoum and its twin town, Omdurman, to protest the apparent takeover of power by the military. Footage shared on the internet appeared to show protesters blocking streets and setting tires on fire when security forces used tear gas to disperse them.

Protesters could be heard chanting: “The people are stronger, stronger” and “Retreat is not an option!” As billows of smoke from burning tires filled the air.

After weeks of tension, the armed forces arrested the Sudanese Prime Minister for refusing to support their “coup”, the Ministry of Information said.Ashraf Shazly / AFP – Getty Images

A takeover by the military would be a major setback for Sudan, which has been struggling with a stop-and-go transition to democracy since the fall of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir through mass protests two years ago.

The United States and the European Union expressed concern about developments on Monday.

Jeffrey Feltman, US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by the reports. Feltman met with Sudanese officials over the weekend to resolve a growing dispute between the country’s civilian and military leaders. The EU foreign policy representative Josep Borrell tweeted that he was following the events with “greatest concern”.

The first reports of a possible military takeover trickled in from Sudan before dawn. In the morning, the Ministry of Information confirmed that Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had been arrested and taken to an undisclosed location. Several high-ranking government officials were also arrested, the ministry said in a Facebook post. It was said that her whereabouts were unknown.

In other hallmarks of a takeover, internet access was largely cut off and the country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music. At one point, the military stormed the offices of Sudan’s state television in Omdurman and arrested a number of workers, the Ministry of Information said.

The apparent takeover on Monday came after weeks of mounting tension between Sudan’s civil and military leaders. A failed coup attempt in September broke the country according to old patterns and pitted more conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who overthrew al-Bashir in protests. In the past few days, both camps took to the streets during demonstrations.

Protesters burned tires to block a road despite army arrests.AFP – Getty Images

Under Hamdok and the Transitional Council, Sudan had slowly recovered from the years of international pariah status it had existed under al-Bashir. The country was removed from the United States’ state terrorist support list in 2020, opening the door to much-needed international credit and investment. But the country’s economy is grappling with the shock of a series of economic reforms demanded by international credit institutions.

There have been previous military coups in Sudan since independence from Great Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in 1989 through a military coup that overturned the country’s most recently elected government.

Among those arrested on Monday were Hamdok and five senior government officials, including two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose information to the media.

Those arrested included Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul and Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, a member of the country’s transitional ruling body known as the Sovereign Council, and Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a media advisor to Hamdok. Ayman Khalid, governor of Khartoum state, was also arrested, according to the official Facebook page of his office.

After the news of the arrests spread, the country’s main pro-democracy group and the Communist Party of Sudan appealed to the Sudanese to take to the streets.

Separately, the Communist Party called on workers to strike in an act of mass civil obedience after describing a “full military coup” orchestrated by the head of the Sovereign Council, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan.

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