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Sudan: Military coup feared as Hamdok and other civilian leaders detained

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok tells Sudanese to defend the revolution peacefully as reports of a military coup emerge
A protester against the prospect of military rule pictured in Khartoum just days before reports of a military coup emerged (Reuters)

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and most other ministers in the country's civilian government have been arrested in their homes as part of an apparent military coup.

Soldiers arrested the cabinet ministers and a large number of pro-government party leaders on Monday, three political sources told Reuters, in what appears to be the gravest threat to Sudan's fraught transition towards democracy.

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The Sudanese information ministry said that Hamdok had been detained and moved to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the coup. 

Joint military forces holding Hamdok under house arrest were pressuring him to issue a supportive statement, it said.

Those same forces were responsible for the other arrests, with civilian leaders and ministers also being held in "an unidentified location".

Hamdok called on the Sudanese people to take to the streets to defend their revolution peacefully. The information ministry said Sudan's prime minister had issued this statement from where he is being held. 

The army has not yet commented. Pro-democracy groups have joined Hamdok in urging people to take to the streets. 

'Military coup'

The Sudanese Communist Party called for a "political strike and civil disobedience until this coup is defeated".

Fathi al-Fadhl, the party's spokesman, did not hesitate to call the ongoing events a "military coup", saying in an audio message from Khartoum that Hamdok's home had been surrounded by tanks and that he anticipated a "severe onslaught", and further arrests. 

The army and paramilitary have been deployed across the city, restricting the movement of civilians, Reuters quoted a witness as saying. 

Jeffrey Feltman, the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, said the United States was deeply alarmed by reports of a military takeover. 

On the official Twitter account of the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs, Feltman warned the military takeover would contravene Sudan's constitutional declaration and would put US assistance to the country at risk. Feltman and Hamdok met for emergency talks just a few days ago.

"The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process," tweeted Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union's foreign affairs representative. 

The African Union called for the release "of all arrested political leaders".

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Video footage and images captured by eyewitnesses in Khartoum showed tyres burning and smoke and fire rising as people gathered on the streets of the capital after hearing reports of the attempted coup. 

Internet access in Sudan has been disrupted, with online observatory NetBlocks reporting that national connectivity was at 34 percent of ordinary levels. 

Tensions between military and civilian factions in Sudan's transitional government have been close to unbearable since a failed coup last month linked to the regime of former ruler Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019.

Middle East Eye has recently reported on fears that a power grab by the army was imminent, with comparisons drawn to the removal from power of Egypt's democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi by the military.

The transitional government was put in place after Bashir was removed from power as a result of a wave of people's protests.