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'Rebellion': Gunfire rings out at Sudan's security agency bases

Violence erupts in Khartoum after security personnel were ordered to retire or join another force following restructuring at intelligence agency
The army ousted Bashir in April last year, and the country's new authorities have vowed to reform the NISS (File pic/AFP)

Heavy gunfire erupted in the Sudanese capital on Tuesday in what the country's ruling council branded a "rebellion" by members of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS).

Witnesses said that the violence broke out at a NISS base in Khartoum's upscale Riyadh district and in North Khartoum .

A correspondent for the AFP news agency reported that gunfire at the Riyadh base, not far from Khartoum airport, was heavy and steady. 

'Islamists have wide influence among this force and that may disclose that the former regime is behind what is going on,'

Masked members of the NISS, dressed in military uniform, set up checkpoints near the Riyadh base and were seen firing shots into the air, one of the witnesses said.

All streets leading to the two bases were cordoned off by security forces, causing traffic jams. At least two flights have been turned away from Khartoum airport following the clashes. 

Abdul Hafiz Abdul Rahim, a spokesman of the Sudanese Civil Aviation Authority, said flights at Khartoum airport were temporarily susended.

"Flights have been suspended at the Khartoum airport from 03:00 to 08:00 PM in order to guarantee the safety of the flights and the passengers," Abdul Hafiz Abdul Rahim told MEE over the phone.

Shortly after the gunfire began, the NISS announced it had sacked some employees who were unhappy with the severance package they were offered.

A statement by the service did not mention the gunfire, but a security source told Reuters that negotiations were taking place to try to resolve the problem.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the country's main protest group, called on state agencies to intervene immediately to stop "these irresponsible operations that are causing terror amongst citizens".

Talking to Al-Jazeera Arabic, General Shams Aldin Kabashi, a spokesman of the ruling Sudanese Sovereign council, warned that what happened was happening a rebellion and the national army may use force to end it.

"This force is supposed to be disciplined and any other issue of payment or compensation can be discussed, but without undisciplined blackmailing, so we are waiting for the end of this problem peacefully but we are ready to end it by all means," he warned.

Unverified video footage posted on social media purporting to show the area featured the sound of gunfire, Reuters said.

'The nation and army are one hand'

Sudan is undergoing a three-year political transition overseen by civilians and the military following the overthrow of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

Security agents of the NISS were at the forefront of cracking down on protesters during the nationwide uprising that first erupted against Bashir in December 2018.

The army ousted Bashir in April last year, and the country's new authorities have vowed to reform the NISS.

A government source said that the crisis revealed an internal conflict between the agents of the old administration loyal to Bashir on the one hand and the senior officers and generals of the national army and the sovereign council on the other.

The source, who asked for anonymity because he is not authorised to talk to the media, told MEE that following the restructuring of the NISS, soldiers had been given the chance to choose whether to be disarmed or to be integrated in the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) or the national army.

'The Sudanese knows well that what is happening today is new cycle of conspiracy by the Islamists who want to abort the revolution and democracy'

- Samar Ahmed, protester

"The soldiers who belonged to the operation unit rejected the options given to them, asking for a very high incentive and that has complicated the negotiations with them," he stated.

"Islamists have wide influence among this force and that may disclose that the former regime is behind what is going on."

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Riyadh base, chanting against Islamists and calling on the army to put an end to the violence.

"The nation and army are one hand," the protesters chanted.

Samar Ahmed, 29 years old, told MEE that the current move was not just a small rebellion about disputes over financial compensation, but was a bigger conspiracy to abort democracy.

"The Sudanese know well that what is happening today is a new cycle of conspiracy by the Islamists who want to abort the revolution and democracy," she stated.

Another, Elimam Ahmed, told MEE they would remain steadfast in the face of the rebellion.

"We will continue our sacrifice to reach the great goals of the revolution, despite the conspiracies of the Islamists."