Soldiers arrested most of the members of Sudan’s cabinet and a large number of pro-government party leaders on Monday in an apparent military coup, three political sources said, throwing a fragile transition towards democracy into disarray.
Citing unidentified sources, Saudi-owned, Dubai-based Al Hadath said Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok had been placed under house arrest and military forces arrested four cabinet ministers, one civilian member of the ruling Sovereign Council, and several state governors and party leaders.
There was no immediate comment from the military.
The information ministry said “joint military forces” had arrested civilian members of the Sovereign Council and members of the government and had taken them to an undisclosed location.
A Reuters witness saw joint forces from the military and from the powerful, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces stationed in the streets in Khartoum.
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. .
U.S. Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said the United States was deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover of the transitional government in Sudan.
On the official Twitter of the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, Feltman warned that a military takeover would contravene Sudan’s Constitutional Declaration and puts at risk U.S. assistance.
The Reuters witness said military and paramilitary forces deployed across the capital, Khartoum, restricting civilians’ movements, as protesters carrying the national flag burnt tires in different parts of the city.
The information ministry said on its Facebook page that a number of ministers and civilian members of the ruling Sovereign Council were arrested.
Khartoum airport was shut and international flights were suspended, according to Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV channel.
Hamdok is an economist and former senior U.N. official who was appointed as a technocratic prime minister in 2019 and is well respected internationally.
Though popular with pro-democracy civilian groups, he has struggled to keep the transition going due to political splits between the military and civilians and the pressures of an economic crisis.
Family sources told Reuters that military forces had stormed the house of Hamdok’s media adviser and arrested him.
Reuters witnesses said internet services appeared to be down in Khartoum.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, a main activist coalition in the uprising against Bashir, called on supporters to mobilise after what it called the arrest of cabinet members.
“We urge the masses to go out on the streets and occupy them, close all roads with barricades, stage a general labour strike, and not to cooperate with the putschists and use civil disobedience to confront them,” the group said in a statement on Facebook.
As tensions built this month, a coalition of rebel groups and political parties aligned themselves with the military and called on it to dissolve the civilian government, staging a sit-in outside the presidential palace.
Last week, several cabinet ministers took part in big protests in several parts of Khartoum and other cities against the prospect of military rule.
The military head of the Sovereign Council has previously asserted his commitment to the transition.
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