US ‘deeply alarmed’ at reports of military takeover in Sudan, calls for PM’s release

(CAIRO) — After initially being put under house arrest by military forces Monday, Sudan’s acting Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his wife Muna Abdalla were “kidnapped” at dawn from their Khartoum residence, according to the prime minister’s office.

The move happened after the military forces arrested several top civilian officials, including cabinet ministers. Soon after, Sudan’s de facto leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan declared a state of emergency and dissolved the ruling transitional sovereign council and the government on Monday. It led to a backlash from the opposition and the United States.

Opposition figures said bridges and roads were blocked and that the internet was cut off in Khartoum. Videos posted on social media showed a large number of protesters taking to the streets, setting tires on fire and chanting against the apparent coup.

“What happened today in Khartoum is an attempt to erode the democratic gains of our December 2018 revolution,” Ismail El Taj, a leading member of the Sudanese Professionals Association, one of the main coalitions that rose up against the autocratic regime of Omar al-Bashir, told ABC News. “We will resist this coup with all peaceful means, such as peaceful marches, sit-ins and civil disobedience. The trembling hands that are trying to turn back the clock will not succeed.”

Both the U.S. embassy in Khartoum and the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa issued statements condemning the military takeover.

On Saturday, U.S. special envoy for Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met with Hamdok and coup leader Gen. Burhan together and “urged all actors to recommit to working together to implement the constitutional declaration and Juba Peace Agreement.” The agreement lays out the transition to democratic rule, according to the embassy.

“The US is deeply alarmed at reports of a military take-over of the transitional government,” Feltman said in a statement Monday. “This would contravene the Constitutional Declaration and the democratic aspirations of the Sudanese people and is utterly unacceptable. As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk U.S. assistance.”

Following Monday’s military takeover, the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum urged Americans to shelter in place in Monday and to avoid traveling to the embassy or international airports. It said armed forces were “blocking certain areas in and around Khartoum” and that internet in the capital is “non-functional.”

“There are unverified reports of violence against protesters. Flights are not leaving the country,” the embassy said in an alert.

The U.N. secretary-general called on the immediate release of the prime minister and all others who have been detained.

“The unlawful detention of the PM, government officials, and politicians is unacceptable and contravenes the constitutional document, and the partnership critical for the success of Sudan’s transition,” a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement Monday.

Regardless of the objections by other parties and the international community, coup leader al-Burhan said in a live television statement Monday that he was keen on completing a transition to democracy, adding that “a government of independent competent figures will be formed to lead the country until the elections (in July 2023). The equitable representation of all the people of Sudan, its factions and groups shall be taken into account.”

Sudan’s information ministry said military forces had stormed state TV offices in Khartoum’s twin city of Omdurman on Monday.

The prime minister’s office condemned the military forces’ move, saying the military leaders of the Sudanese state “bear the criminal, legal and political consequences of the unilateral decisions they have taken.” In a statement, they describe it as “a complete coup against the gains of the revolution and our people, who sacrificed their blood in search of freedom, peace and justice.”

ABC News’ Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.

 

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