Nairobi — Heavy confusion is surrounding the alleged foiling by Sudanese intelligence authorities of a "subversive plot" as well as the subsequent arrests or interrogations of high-profile figures including ex-spy chief Salah Gosh, thanks to a number of conflicting statements by officials.
Presidential Security Adviser Salah Gosh (Upper Left), NCP's Vice-President and Presidential Assistant Nafi Ali Nafi (Upper Right), Vice-President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha (Lower left), Sudan's President and NCP's chairman Omar Al-Bashir (lower right)
News of the putative putsch was reported at around 5:00 am local time (2:00 am GMT) on Thursday, 22 September, by the Sudanese Media Center (SMC), a news website widely believed to be affiliated to the country's National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS).
SMC quoted an unidentified NISS source as saying that the authorities had thwarted a "subversive attempt" planned to be launched at dawn on Thursday.
He went on to say that the attempt, which aimed to "create security disorders in the country" was led by some figures from "opposition forces"
The source however added that NISS arrested and started investigations with "military and civilian" individuals with connections to the plot.
Some observers quickly dismissed the news as a false flag attempt to either target opposition parties or create a distraction from the possibility of worse economic times ahead due to the postponement of plans to resume South Sudan's oil exports via Sudan.
But big surprises started to trickle in few hours later. Turkey-based news agency Anadul and Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV quoted Sudanese sources as saying that Gosh has been taken into custody over the attempt but there was no official confirmation from Khartoum yet.
Rumors of arrests made among top army generals swept the Sudanese blogosphere and the capital Khartoum until Rabie Abdel Atti, an advisor to the information ministry, confirmed in an interview with Al-Arabiya that there is "talk" about the arrest of some army officers. He identified an army officer with the name Kamal Abdel Maroof as one of those undergoing investigations over the alleged attempt. Major General Kamal Abdel-Ma'Rouf is known to be the army commander who led the "liberation" of Heglig oil area after it was briefly occupied by South Sudan in April this year.
Meanwhile, a number of Sudanese netizens reported that another army officer they identified as Mohammed Ibrahim Abdel Galil has also been arrested. Information gathered by Sudan Tribune on Abdel Galil indicates that he occupies the rank of a Lieutenant-General in the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF). Lt-Gen Abdel Galil, who is better known as "Wad Ibrahim", is a veteran SAF officer who served in the war against South Sudan for 12 years. The information also says he used to be close to President AL-Bashir and served as head of his security for six years.
Later, Sudan's information minister and government spokesperson Ahmed Bilal Osman called for a press conference and gave the first official version of the events that unraveled today. Osman said that there were 13 people detained in connection with the alleged plot including ex-spy chief and presidential adviser Salah Gosh, Brigadier General Mohamed Ibrahim Abdel-Galil, Major General Adil Al-Tayeb from the NISS. He did not disclose the names of the remaining participants.
Meanwhile, the Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV also reported that the former head of military intelligence Brigadier General Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Ouf was also arrested. Well placed sources later told Sudan Tribune that former presidential adviser and head of NCP bloc in parliament Ghazi Salah al-Deen Al-Attabani was summoned for questioning by NISS on his possible role in the plot but was later released.
The government spokesperson offered little details on the nature of the plot except saying that those named were planning to destabilize security while also spreading false rumors on health of 68-years old president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who recently underwent throat surgery to remove a benign tumor. Officials insist he is in good health.
Confusion about what went into the alleged plot has thickened after some officials made conflicting statements, giving an indication that many of them are not properly informed about the events.
The official spokesperson of SAF, Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, denied that Abdel-Ma'Rouf was arrested and claimed that he is currently in South Kordofan.
Speaking to reporters at the parliament on Thursday, the leading member of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and former intelligence chief, Qutbi Al-Mahdi, said that Salah Gosh was not under arrest but he was merely summoned. "Gosh has nothing to do with this story" he intoned.
Al-Mahdi added that Gosh was "not affiliated" to the NCP and was stripped of all his positions in the party. The NCP official downplayed the attempt saying it's an immature job and was not going to achieve anything. He went on to say that it posed no serious threat to the country and was just aiming to make the regime look unstable.
Following a meeting of the NCP's leadership office later in the evening, Al-Mahdi continued to downplay the event telling reporters that it was not a coup and is unlikely to lead to any divisions in the NCP.
But second Vice-President Al-Haj Adam Youssef, speaking to reporters following the same meeting, used a different wording to describe the events. According to Youssef, the foiling of the alleged attempt "sends a strong message to political opposition parties that are seeking sabotage that they can never infiltrate regular forces"
Meanwhile, the main opposition coalition, the National Consensus Forces (NCF), issued a statement denying any role in the alleged sabotage attempt. The statement said that the NISS's accusations are "untruthful" and suggested that whatever happened was an inside job.
"We reject any talk about our participation in any sabotage activities. The reality of what happened is known to security authorities and circles of the regimes but they are trying to hide the fact that the power struggle within the ruling circles is growing"