Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir Sunday replaced powerful intelligence chief Mohammed Atta, the official news agency SUNA reported, amid a security crackdown on opposition protests against rising food prices.
Bashir issued a presidential decree announcing Salah Abdallah Mohammed Salih as the new head of the country’s National Intelligence and Security Service, SUNA said, without providing further details.
Salih had previously headed NISS and was replaced by Atta in August 2009.
Atta’s removal comes at a time when NISS is leading a crackdown on sporadic opposition protests that have erupted from early January against rising food prices.
Protesters have taken to the streets in recent weeks after bread prices jumped following a government decision to leave wheat imports to the private sector that triggered a sharp rise in the cost of flour.
NISS agents and anti-riot police have swiftly broken up these rallies held in Khartoum and some other parts of the country.
NISS agents have also arrested several senior leaders of opposition groups since January in a bid to prevent the protests from spreading.
The new chief and US relations
Salah Abdallah Saleh, also known as Salah Gosh, who had served as head of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) between 2004 and 2009, had been reinstated,
Relations between Sudan and the United States have improved under President Donald Trump. Trump last year lifted long-standing sanctions against Sudan, saying it had made progress fighting terrorism and easing humanitarian distress, in a major turnaround for Bashir's government.
But he kept Sudan on the US list of state sponsors of terrorism - alongside Iran and Syria - which carries a ban on weapons sales and restrictions on US aid, according to US officials.
The news agency gave no reason for the shake-up at the security agency. Moula last week accompanied Sudanese Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour to Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials on topics including security and water issues.
Gosh was detained in 2012 and held for several months on suspicion of "inciting chaos", "targeting" some leaders and spreading rumors about President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s health, the information minister said at the time, but Gosh was released without going on trial.
He served as a security adviser to Bashir for two years prior to his arrest.
The New York Times reported in 2005 that U.S. intelligence officials had allowed Gosh to visit the country for consultation with the CIA as a reward for his country's cooperation in detaining suspected militants and providing information on al Qaeda following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.