Sudan's Military Expected to Announce Coup Against President Omar Al-Bashir

Protesters in Khartoum.

Sudan's military is to make "an important statement" amid speculation of a coup against President Omar al-Bashir following months of protests.

The Sudanese military on Thursday is believed to have ousted longtime President Omar al-Bashir in a coup following months of popular protests against his three decades of iron-fisted rule.

The army deployed at strategic points around the capital Khartoum and the international airport was closed, as tens of thousands of protesters gathered at the defense ministry celebrating the fall of al-Bashir.

"It has fallen, we won," protesters chanted outside the ministry.

Sudan's armed forces were set to make an announcement, state media said, amid reports the military had taken control of state radio and television stations.

"The armed forces will present an important statement shortly. Be ready for it," state television said.

Reuters, citing unnamed officials, reported that al-Bashir has stepped down and a transitional council headed by military officers will govern the country.

Since mid-December, Sudan has witnessed sustained protests sparked by a tripling of bread prices and an economic crisis that has led to a shortage of basic goods. The protest movement quickly morphed into a sustained challenge against al-Bashir's rule.

The protests have intensified since April 6 as thousands of demonstrators joined a sit-in outside army headquarters in Khartoum, which also houses al-Bashir's residence, calling for the president to step down.

At least 11 people including six security forces have been killed since the weekend in clashes. Protest-related violence has left at least 49 people dead since December, according to official numbers.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which launched the protests in December, had urged the army to take the side of the people and negotiate an end to al-Bashir's rule.

In a sign the regime was fracturing, earlier this week soldiers protecting protesters clashed with the feared National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) leading the crackdown. Police also ordered officers to avoid intervening against the demonstrators.

International pressure

The protests against al-Bashir gained a boost last week after Algeria's ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika resigned in response to weeks of similar protests against his nearly 20-year rule.

Earlier this week, the US, Britain and Norway called for Sudanese authorities to respond to protesters demands.

"The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition," the three countries said in a joint statement.

Al-Bashir, an Islamist and former army officer, seized power in a coup in 1989. He had remained resistant to giving up power in the face of protests, saying that change can only come through elections.

He had warned of chaos similar to the Arab Spring uprisings that led to civil wars in countries like Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Al-Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide committed during the conflict in Darfur.

(AFP, AP, Reuters)

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