Sudan’s information ministry says the country’s interim Prime Minister Abdulla Hamdok is under house arrest and being forced to issue a message in support of a military coup.
The news comes as the United States expressed alarm over recent developments in the country, in a transition to democracy for more than two years after former autocrat Omar al-Bashir was removed from power. Early Monday, U.S. Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by reports of the military takeover.
Military forces also detained a number of senior Sudanese government figures on Monday, the country’s information ministry said, as the country’s main pro-democracy group called on people to take to the streets to counter an apparent military coup.
The ministry said the internet had been cut off and military forces closed bridges. The country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music and scenes of the Nile river. The Umma Party, the country’s largest political party, described the arrests as an attempted coup, and called on people to take to the streets in resistance. Earlier, the Sudanese Professionals’ Association, a group leading demands for a transition to democracy, issued a similar call.
A possible takeover by the military would be a major setback for Sudan, which has grappled with a transition to democracy since long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir was toppled by mass protests.
Monday’s arrests come after weeks of rising tensions between Sudan’s civilian and military leaders. A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more-conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled al-Bashir more than two years ago in mass protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.
The information ministry said in a brief statement on its Facebook page that the whereabouts of the officials were not known. It did not provide details about who was detained.
Earlier Monday, two officials confirmed that at least five government figures were detained. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
The officials said the detained government members include Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul, and Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, member of the country’s ruling transitional body, known as The Sovereign Council, and Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a media adviser to Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
The whereabouts of Hamdok were not immediately clear, amid media reports that security forces were stationed outside his home in Khartoum.
Under Hamdok and the transitional council, Sudan has slowly emerged from years of international pariah status under al-Bashir. The country was removed from the United States’ state supporter of terror list in 2020, opening the door for badly needed international loans and investment. The country’s economy has struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.
Ayman Khalid, governor of the state containing the capital, Khartoum, was also arrested, according to the official Facebook page of his office.
There have been previous military coups in Sudan since it gained its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup that removed the country’s last elected government.
The arrests followed meetings the U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman with Sudanese military and civilian leaders Saturday and Sunday in efforts to resolve the dispute. Sudan’s state news website highlighted the meetings with military officials.
The Sudanese Communist Party called on workers to go on strike and mass civil disobedience after what it described as a “full military coup” orchestrated by the Sovereign Council’s head Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan.
NetBlocks, a group which tracks disruptions across the internet, said it had seen a “significant disruption” to both fixed-line and mobile internet connections across Sudan with multiple providers early Monday.
“Metrics corroborate user reports network disruptions appearing consistent with an internet shutdown,” the advocacy group said. “The disruption is likely to limit the free flow of information online and news coverage of incidents on the ground.”