Sudan’s Bashir to step down, army to announce interim council

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Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is set to step down, Al Arabiya sources confirmed adding that some current and former officials have been arrested.

Al Arabiya sources also said the Khartoum airport has been closed down and that a counter-coup attempt in Sudan had failed. A gathering of Sudanese professionals said they will accept only the handover of power to a civilian transitional government.

A son of Sudan’s main opposition leader said on Thursday that President Omar al-Bashir was under house arrest along with number of Muslim Brotherhood leaders, al-Hadath TV reported. The Dubai-based channel initially attributed the statement to opposition leader Sadiq al-Mahdi, but later clarified it was his son, Al-Sadeeq Sadiq al-Mahdi.

Al Arabiya sources also said that Sudan’s political prisoners are being released. According to sources, the Sudanese army announced the formation of an interim council headed by the first vice president Awad Ibn Auf. However other sources did not confirm the report, saying that consultaions over the council's members, are still ongoing.

They said Sudan’s army stormed the home of Awad al-Jazz, assistant to President al-Bashir. Sources also said Sudanese Prime Minister Mohamed Tahir Ayala has been arrested. There were also reports that President Bashir was prevented from departing Sudan yesterday.

However, Mariam al-Mahdi, daughter of the opposition Umma Party chief and ex-prime minister, Sadiq al-Mahdi, demanded that power be handed over to a civil interim government.

Sudan’s powerful intelligence service announced Thursday it was freeing all the country’s political detainees, state media said. “The National Intelligence and Security Service has announced it is releasing all political detainees across the country,” the official SUNA news agency said.

But in the eastern cities of Kasala and Port Sudan, protesters stormed NISS buildings after the releases failed to materialize, witnesses said. Protesters approached the NISS building in Kasala demanding that officers free their prisoners, a witness told AFP by telephone from the city.

“But NISS officers fired in the air after which protesters stormed the building and looted all the equipment inside,” he said. Protesters chanting slogans against the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir also stormed an NISS building in Port Sudan, a witness said.

Earlier, Sudanese military vehicles were deployed on key roads, bridges in Khartoum and people were chanting “it has fallen, we won,” Reuters reported. Soldiers raided the headquarters of the Islamic movement led by Bashir in Khartoum on Thursday, a Reuters witness said.

The Islamic movement is the main component of Sudan’s ruling party.

It was earlier reported that the Sudanese army will make an “important statement soon,” state television and radio announced Thursday, as thousands of protesters camped outside the military headquarters in Khartoum demanding the resignation of President Omar al-Bashir.

State media offered no further details, as the rally outside the army complex entered its sixth day. Several military vehicles carrying troops entered the army compound in the early hours of Thursday, witnesses told AFP. The compound also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defense ministry.

The United States voiced hope Wednesday after Sudanese security forces held fire on a mounting anti-government rally, with Washington renewing calls for Khartoum to allow peaceful protests.

Protesters rally at a demonstration near the military headquarters on Tuesday in the capital Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)
Protesters rally at a demonstration near the military headquarters on Tuesday in the capital Khartoum, Sudan. (AP)

Tibor Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for Africa, said he was “heartened” at the relative calm overnight Tuesday after police ordered forces not to intervene. “We call on the government of Sudan to respect the rights of all Sudanese people to express grievances peacefully,” he tweeted.

Thousands of protesters were camped out of the army headquarters Wednesday for the fifth day, in what is seen as the biggest threat yet to President Omar al-Bashir’s three decades of rule. Officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations erupted in December over a sharp hike in the price of bread.

The United States, Britain and Norway in a joint statement on Tuesday said that Sudanese authorities needed to respond to the popular demands and “deliver a credible plan for this political transition.”

(With agencies)

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