KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) — Sudan’s ruling military council said it foiled an attempted military coup Thursday, just days after the military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed on a joint sovereign council to rule the country during a transition period until elections are held.
Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of the military council, said in a statement that at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested. Security forces were pursuing the group’s leader and additional officers who took part in plotting the coup attempt, he said.
The council did not reveal the name of the attempted leader, his rank or other details. The statement also said five of the arrested officers were retired.
The military and a pro-democracy coalition agreed last Friday 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 a weekslong standoff that raised fears of all-out civil war.
“The attempted coup came in a critical time, ahead of the deal with the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change,” Omar said, referring to the group that speaks for the pro-democracy demonstrators.
Sudan has been in political deadlock since the overthrow of autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April.
On Sunday, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, Sudan’s top general, said the military council that assumed power after al-Bashir’s overthrow would be dissolved with the implementation of the power-sharing deal.
The deal was meant to end the impasse between the military council and the protest movement since security forces razed a massive pro-democracy sit-in in Khartoum early last month, killing more than 100 people, according to protest organizers.
In the ensuing weeks, protesters stayed in the streets, demanding that the generals hand power to civilian leadership.
The deal was reached after tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of Sudan’s main cities on June 30 in the biggest demonstrations since the sit-in camp was razed. At least 11 people were killed in clashes with security forces, according to protest organizers.
The power-sharing arrangement is to include a joint sovereign council of five civilians representing the protest movement and five military members. An 11th seat is to go to a civilian chosen by both sides. The protesters will select a Cabinet of technocrats, and a legislative council is to be formed after three months.
The two sides also agreed on an independent Sudanese investigation into the deadly crackdown, but the details have yet to be worked out.
Magdy reported from Cairo.