Sudan: Security forces stop 'mutiny' after clashes in Khartoum

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Sudan's main intelligence agency said on Tuesday night that it had successfully stopped an armed mutiny over severance pay from within its ranks.

Heavy gunfire broke out in Sudan's capital on Tuesday as several agents of the National Intelligence and Security Service (Niss) rebelled against a restructuring plan for the body, prompting a closure of the international airport.

A teenager was wounded when shots were fired at some bases of the agency, now rebranded the Directorate of General Intelligence Service. The Niss was a security arm loyal to longtime president Omar Al Bashir who was removed from office by the military amid protests in April.

The violence was the biggest confrontation so far between the old guard and supporters of the new administration, which helped topple Al Bashir in April after 30 years in power.

Niss agents also shut two small oilfields in Darfur in protest about their severance packages, a government source told Reuters. They had an output of around 5,000 barrels per day.

Members of Sudan's Rapid Support Forces stand guard while demonstrators stage a sit-in outside the army headquarters in Khartoum. AFP

Civilians gather near the area where gunmen opened fire outside buildings used by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum, Sudan January 14, 2020. Reuters

Civilians gather near the area where gunmen opened fire outside buildings used by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum, Sudan January 14, 2020. Reuters

A civilian walks past members of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are seen near the area where gunmen opened fire outside buildings used by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum. Reuters

Members of the Sudanese Rapid Support Forces (RSF) are seen near the area where gunmen opened fire outside buildings used by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum, Sudan January 14, 2020. Reuters

Civilians sit on a wall near the area where gunmen opened fire outside buildings used by Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) in Khartoum, Sudan January 14, 2020. Reuters

The General Intelligence Service said late on Tuesday that the rebellious former members of its forces had been convinced “through negotiations” to hand over their weapons.

Niss agents were at the forefront of a crackdown against protesters during a nationwide anti-Al Bashir uprising that erupted in December 2018 and finally led to his removal by the army four months later.

Security forces contained the armed protest from within the security apparatus.

Minister of Information ­Faisal Mohamed Salah called on the “rebellious forces” to hand over their weapons.

Witnesses reported that gunfire broke out at the agency's bases Khartoum North and another area of the city.

All streets leading to the two bases were cordoned off, causing traffic jams, witnesses said.

The AFP news agency said several vehicles carrying soldiers and troops from the country’s Rapid Support Forces had headed towards the bases.

"Troops from operating centres of the intelligence started a rebellion in some parts of the capital," Mr Saleh said.

He said some troops had gone out on the streets, set up barricades and fired into the air.

“This is because those troops rejected the amount of money they got for their retirement,” Mr Saleh said.

“In the process of restructuring Niss there are some members who rejected the financial compensation offered for retirement,” the service said.

Doctors close to the protest movement that led to Mr Al Bashir’s fall said a 15-year-old boy was wounded by gunfire.

A statement issued by the security agency said it was “assessing the situation”.

A security source told news wires that the first shooting broke out in the city of Al Obeid after which gunfire erupted in the agency's bases in Khartoum.

"Negotiations are now on to solve the issue as they have financial demands," a security source said.

Authorities closed the capital's airport, the civil aviation authority said.

"Khartoum airport has been closed for five hours until 8 pm local time for security reasons," spokesman Abdelhafiz Abdelrahim said.

Video on social media showed a heavy security force presence in some areas of Khartoum.

Sudan is in a transition period after an uprising last summer deposed longtime autocrat Al Bashir. Since then, the country has been led by a transitional government led by technocrat Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and a military council.

Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, has been in Sudan this week and met the president, vice president and prime minister.

Sources in the foreign ministry confirmed he had left Sudan at the time of the clashes.

On Monday, he wrote on Twitter: “Our relationship with Sudan is historic. We are working towards building a modern relationship and varied partnership."

The Sudanese Professionals Association, the main organisation behind the protest movement that ousted Mr Al Bashir, urged people to stay indoors until the disturbance was settled. It said it rejected “any attempt to foment chaos, intimidate citizens and use weapons”, and demanded immediate state intervention.

The group also reported a sudden blackout of state-run media. It called on all Sudanese and foreigners to steer clear of all military zones “in anticipation of armed clashes that may occur, due to high tensions”.

Updated: January 15, 2020 10:20 AM

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