Officers, Islamists Arrested Over Coup Plot in Sudan

Military chief among those nabbed in second wave of arrests in a month, as negotiations between protesters, military council stall

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Sudanese soldiers from the Rapid Support Forces unit stand guard during a military-backed rally, in Mayo district, south of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019.
Sudanese soldiers from the Rapid Support Forces unit stand guard during a military-backed rally, in Mayo district, south of Khartoum, Sudan, June 29, 2019. Credit: Hussein Malla/AP

Sudan's army chief was among several people arrested in a coup plot, the country's military said Wednesday, shortly after reports emerged of at least a dozen high-ranking army officers and Islamists being taken into custody in the conspiracy.

A brief statement from the military said the county's chief-of-staff, Gen. Hashem Abdel-Muttalib Babakr, was among those arrested over the alleged plot. The statement said the plot aimed to sabotage the power-sharing deal between the military council and the protest movement.

Babakr was appointed chief-of-staff just days after al-Bashir's ouster following months of street protests against the president's 30-year rule. Since April, Babakr had appeared loyal to Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling military council, and only last week visited Egypt with a top-level Sudanese delegation.

It is the second coup plot reported this month in Sudan, where talks between the military and the country's pro-democracy movement have dragged out over the final and crucial part of a power-sharing deal for the nation's transitional period.

Earlier in July, the military council that took over the country after ousting longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in April, said it arrested at least 16 active and retired military officers over an attempted coup.

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Sudanese deputy chief of the ruling miliary council Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo and protest movement leader Ahmad al-Rabiah shake hands after signing an agreement on July 17, 2019.Credit: Ebrahim HAMID / AFP

The arrests took place this week and several Islamists, including a former minister, loyal to al-Bashir were also arrested over the same plot, two military officials told The Associated Press. They refused to reveal further details and spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to talk to the media.

Sudan's ruling generals and pro-democracy factions have yet to sign the second, final part of the power-sharing deal. They signed a political declaration that outlines the deal last week, after agreeing on a joint sovereign council that will rule for a little over three years while elections are organized.

Both sides say a diplomatic push by the U.S. and its Arab allies was key to ending the weeks-long standoff that raised fears of all-out civil war.

The second, more contentious part of the power-sharing deal — the so-called constitutional agreement — is meant to specify the division of powers during the transitional period.

Leaders of the pro-democracy movement, known as the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change, have been meeting in Ethiopia with leaders of the Revolutionary Front, an alliance of rebel groups who are also part of the movement. The Revolutionary Front had rejected the power-sharing deal, arguing it failed to meet their demands for the peace.

For decades, Sudan has been convulsed by rebellions in the provinces by ethnic and religious minorities who felt marginalized or oppressed by the Khartoum government, which is dominated by northern Sudanese Arab Muslims.

The Revolutionary Front includes rebel groups from Darfur as well as Blue Nile and South Kordofan provinces.