Khartoum — The Sudanese First Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha became the most senior official to date to comment on the alleged coup attempt that took place last week as he vowed to deal with swiftly with those involved.
Those detained over the plot included key longtime regime loyalists such as former spy chief Salah Gosh and 12 other Islamist military figures sending shockwaves throughout the country and particularly among supporters of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP).
While details surrounding the attempt remain murky, many analysts and observers saw it as the clearest sign of a power struggle within the regime of president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who came to power in 1989 after staging a military coup.
Fearing a major split within the Islamist base that brought Bashir to power, some NCP officials have hinted that those detained would be released as part of an "in-house" settlement. This week a number of lawmakers announced their intention to meet president Bashir to request clemency for the coup plotters.
But VP Taha who addressed inauguration of schools south of the Sudanese capital today made it clear that those involved will be prosecuted. He acknowledged that the conspirators are part of the regime but vowed no special treatment for them.
"We have no double standards; we have one standard and the treatment will be one," Taha said. "The way with us is working within the ranks, not treachery and treason and destabilizing the ranks".
In a related development the government spokesperson Ahmed Bilal Osman scoffed at speculations that arrests of the conspirators was a preemptive measure and not based on actionable intelligence. At an interview on Sudan TV today he said that some of the detainees gave detailed confessions about their role in the coup attempt.
Osman also disclosed that it has been confirmed that some members of the group were in contact and coordination with the Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). He went on to say that investigations also prove the involvement of an opposition party but declined to name it.
In the past the government has persistently accused the Popular Congress Party (PCP) led by Hassan al-Turabi of being the political mastermind of JEM.
Turabi was Bashir's close political and religious ally since the 1989 coup that was planned by the National Islamic Front (NIF) he led at the time.
However, both men fell out together in a bitter power struggle that started in 1999. Since then Turabi has been in and out of jail but was released along with all other political prisoners after a north-south peace deal in 2005. He is now one of the fiercest critics of the government.
Some analysts have linked the apparent power struggle within the NCP circles to Bashir's recent health troubles. The Sudanese leader underwent two surgeries in Qatar and Saudi Arabia since August to treat a tumor in his vocal cords.
Sudanese officials and Bashir's brother say the 68-years old leader is in good health and that the tumor proved to be benign.
However, Bashir's scaled back public appearances in recent months and contradictory official accounts have given rise to speculations and rumors that the NCP head may be terminally ill.
VP Taha today tackled this issue saying that his boss is in good shape and that his recovery angered his enemies.
"Bashir is in the field and the tree will not shake as its roots are firm and its branches high in the sky", Taha said.