Sudan’s interim prime minister Abdalla Hamdok is under house arrest and is being forced to issue a message in support of a military coup, the country’s information ministry said.
The news comes as the United States expressed alarm over recent developments in Sudan, which has been in a transition to democracy for more than two years after former autocrat Omar al-Bashir was removed from power.
US special envoy to the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by reports of the military takeover.
Sudan’s information ministry said a number of senior government figures had been detained, with the internet cut off and bridges closed by military forces. Meanwhile, the state news channel played patriotic traditional music and scenes of the Nile river.
⚠️ Confirmed: Internet disrupted in #Sudan amid reports of military coup and detention of Prime Minister; real-time network data show national connectivity at 34% of ordinary levels; incident ongoing 📉
📰 Live Report: https://t.co/uVVZKchH5S pic.twitter.com/SoyZK2uYQ9Advertisement
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) October 25, 2021
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 Mr al-Bashir was toppled by mass protests.
The arrests comes 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 Mr al-Bashir in mass protests.
In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.
The officials said the detained include industry minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, information minister Hamza Baloul, Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, member of the ruling Sovereign Council, and Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a media adviser to Mr Hamdok.
Ayman Khalid, governor of the state containing the capital, Khartoum, was also arrested, according to the official Facebook page of his office.
Under Mr Hamdok and the transitional council, Sudan has slowly emerged from years of international pariah status under Mr 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 also struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.
Following with utmost concern ongoing events in #Sudan.
The EU calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) October 25, 2021
There have been previous military coups in Sudan since it gained its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Mr al-Bashir came to power in a 1989 military coup that removed the country’s last elected government.
The arrests have come as the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met with Sudanese military and civilian leaders Saturday and Sunday in efforts to resolve a growing dispute. Sudan’s Stat News website highlighted the meetings with military officials.
The Sudanese Communist Party called on workers to go on strike as well as mass civil disobedience after what it described as a “full military coup” orchestrated by the Sovereign Council’s head, General 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.
“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.”