Prime Minister, officials arrested, internet down in apparent coup in Sudan

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FILE – This file photo from May 7, 2021 shows U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman in Khartoum, Sudan. Sudanese officials said military forces arrested at least five senior government officials on Monday, October 25, 2021 as the Sudanese Professionals Association called on people to take to the streets to counter an apparent military coup. The arrests came as Feltman met with Sudanese military and civilian leaders on Saturday and Sunday in a bid to resolve a growing dispute. (AP Photo / Marwan Ali, file)

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Military forces arrested Sudan’s acting prime minister and senior government officials on Monday, disrupted internet access and blocked bridges in the capital Khartoum, the country’s information ministry said, calling the actions coup d’etat.

In response, thousands of people flooded the streets of Khartoum and its sister city of Omdurman to protest the apparent military takeover. Images shared online appeared to show protesters blocking streets and setting tires on fire as security forces used tear gas to disperse them.

The protesters could be heard chanting: “People are stronger, stronger” and “Retirement is not an option!” as plumes of smoke from burning tires filled the air.

A military takeover would be a major setback for Sudan, which has struggled with a staged transition to democracy since longtime leader Omar al-Bashir was toppled by mass protests ago two years.

The United States and the European Union have expressed concern over Monday’s developments.

Jeffrey Feltman, the US special envoy to the Horn of Africa, said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by the reports. Feltman had met with Sudanese officials over the weekend in an effort to resolve a growing dispute between the country’s civilian and military rulers. EU Foreign Chief Joseph Borrell tweeted that he was following events with “the greatest concern”.

The first reports of a possible military takeover began to emerge from Sudan before dawn on Monday. In the middle of the morning, the Ministry of Information confirmed that the Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, had been arrested and taken to an undisclosed location. Several senior government officials were also arrested, the ministry said in a Facebook post. He said their fate was unknown.

Another hallmark of a takeover, Internet access was largely disrupted and the country’s state news channel broadcast traditional patriotic music. At one point, military forces stormed the Sudanese public television offices in Omdurman and arrested a number of workers, the information ministry said.

Monday’s apparent takeover came after weeks of growing tensions between Sudanese civilian and military leaders. A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled al-Bashir in protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the streets to demonstrate.

Under Hamdok and the transitional council, Sudan had slowly emerged from the years of international pariah status in which it existed under al-Bashir. The country was removed from the list of US terrorist-supporting states in 2020, opening the door to much-needed international loans and investment. But the country’s economy has struggled with the brunt of a number of economic reforms demanded by international lending institutions.

There have been previous military coups in Sudan since gaining independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in a military coup. of 1989 which overthrew the last elected government of the country.

Among those arrested on Monday, in addition to Hamdok, were five senior government officials, according to two officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to share information with 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 ruling transitional body known as the Sovereign Council, as well as Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a Hamdok media advisor. Ayman Khalid, governor of the state containing the capital, Khartoum, was also arrested, according to his office’s official Facebook page.

After word of the arrests spread, the country’s main pro-democracy group and the Sudanese Communist Party launched separate calls for the Sudanese to take to the streets.

Separately, the Communist Party called on workers to go on strike in an act of mass civil disobedience after what it described as a “complete military coup” orchestrated by the head of the Sovereign Council, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan.


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