Sudanese soldiers arrested the majority of the country’s cabinet members and a large number of pro-government party leaders in an apparent military coup on Monday, destabilizing the country’s fragile democratic transition.
According to the information ministry, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was detained and moved to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the coup.
Joint military forces holding Hamdok under house arrest were pressuring him to issue a supportive statement, it said. However, there was no immediate comment from the military, Reuters reports.
Sudan 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 2019 ouster of former leader Omar al-Bashir.
Bashir was toppled and jailed after months of street protests. A political transition agreed after his ouster has seen Sudan emerge from its isolation under three decades of rule by Bashir and was meant to lead to elections by the end of 2023.
The military had stirred unrest in eastern Sudan and used the crisis to implement a coup against the government of Hamdok, the director of his office told al-Arabiya TV channel.
He added that the coup happened despite an agreement Hamdok had reached with the head of a ruling council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in the presence of United States special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman, according to the Dubai-based channel.
The information ministry said military forces had also arrested civilian members of the Sovereign Council and members of the government.
A Reuters witness saw joint forces from the military and the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces stationed in the streets in Khartoum.
The military was meant to pass leadership of the joint Sovereign Council to a civilian figure in the coming months, but the timing of the handover had been left unclear as transitional authorities struggled to move forward on key issues including whether to hand Bashir over to the International Criminal Court.
In recent weeks, civilian officials had claimed credit for some tentative signs of economic stabilization after a sharp devaluation of the currency and the lifting of fuel subsidies.
Feltman, who was visiting Sudan on Saturday and Sunday, said the United States was deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government in Sudan.
On the official Twitter page of the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, Feltman warned that a military takeover would contravene Sudan’s Constitutional Declaration and put at risk US assistance.
Military forces stormed Sudanese Radio and Television headquarters in Omdurman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum, and arrested employees, the information ministry said on its Facebook page.
Two major political parties, the Umma and the Sudanese Congress, condemned what they said was a coup and the campaign of arrests.
The Reuters witness said military and paramilitary forces were deployed across the capital, Khartoum, restricting civilians’ movements as protesters carrying the national flag burnt tires in different parts of the city.
Khartoum airport was shut and international flights were suspended, al-Arabiya TV reports.