KHARTOUM – Sudan’s long-serving president Omar al-Bashir has been removed from power by the army following widespread protests, the chief of staff said on Thursday.
Kamal Abdel-Marouf said the Sudanese armed forces would assume power in the northeast African country for a period of two years, when elections would be held.
In a TV address, Sudan’s Defense Minister Awad Mohamed Ibn Auf said al-Bashir had been arrested but was in a “safe place.”
Thousands of people had gathered outside Sudanese military headquarters in the capital Khartoum amid speculation that the embattled president would step down following rumors of a brewing military coup.
Sudan state TV announced in the early hours of the morning that the Sudanese Armed Forces would make an official announcement fueling talk of an imminent coup.
The army recently clashed with government security forces during rare, large scale protests that have rocked the country since December.
Demonstrations demanding al-Bashir’s resignation began in December last year.
On Thursday morning, rivers of protesters made their way on foot to central Khartoum from the suburbs and neighboring cities like Omdurman and Khartoum North crossing the bridges over the Nile and the White Nile.
Before the announcement, there was a celebratory atmosphere at the protest as many people brought percussion instruments with them while images from the scene showed protesters and soldiers interacting jovially.
The sit-in began on Saturday and was the scene of fatal clashes over the weekend as tensions grew between soldiers and members of the government’s security apparatus, who had been ordered to clear the demonstration.
Sporadic gunfire was reported when soldiers moved to thwart the security services’ operation to clear out protesters.
The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors, an opposition union, said a total of 22 people have been killed since the sit-in protest began, including five soldiers.
Another 153 were injured, the committee said.
Al-Bashir has been in power for almost 30 years after he led a coup in the oil-rich country in 1989.
Since the country split with South Sudan in 2011, Sudan has been increasingly paralyzed by protests and instability, as well as a worsening economic crisis.