Military coup: Al-Bashir ousted as president of Sudan

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Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir has been ousted in a military coup and consultations are under way to form a transitional council to run the country.

The Sudanese defence minister, Awad Ibn Auf, who led the apparent coup on Thursday morning, said the constitution has been suspended and the military would now be in charge of the country for another two years.

Omar Al-Bashir is the second African leader, after Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria to fall in the wake of a tsunami of protests.

A three-month state of emergency has also been imposed, as protesters demand immediate set up of a democratic transition. Several political prisoners held by Al-Bashir are now being released.

“I announce as minister of defence the toppling of the regime and detaining its chief in a secure place,” Ibn Auf said in a televised address Thursday at about 2:00 p.m. local time. He will lead the newly-inaugurated supreme military council.

Ibn Auf said Sudan’s airspace would be shut for 24 hours, while border crossings would be closed indefinitely.

Tens of thousands of Sudanese took to the streets in the centre of Khartoum in jubilation, dancing and chanting anti-Bashir slogans.

Protesters outside the defence ministry chanted: “It has fallen, we won.”

State television and radio played patriotic music, reminding older Sudanese of how military takeovers unfolded during previous episodes of civil unrest.

Bashir, a former paratrooper who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1989, has been a divisive figure, who has managed his way through one internal crisis after another while withstanding attempts by the West to weaken him.

Sudan has suffered prolonged periods of isolation since 1993, when the U.S. added Bashir’s government to its list of terrorism sponsors for harboring Islamist militants.

Washington followed up with sanctions four years later.

Bashir has also been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague over allegations of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003.

The latest crisis has escalated since the weekend, when thousands of demonstrators began camping out outside the Defence Ministry compound in central Khartoum, where Bashir’s residence is located.

Clashes erupted on Tuesday between soldiers trying to protect the protesters and intelligence and security personnel trying to disperse them.

The Information Ministry said a police report showed that at least 11 people died in the clashes, including six members of the armed forces.

Since December 19, Sudan has been rocked by persistent protests sparked by the government’s attempt to raise the price of bread, and an economic crisis that has led to fuel and cash shortages.

Opposition figures have called for the military to help negotiate an end to Bashir’s nearly three decades in power and a transition to democracy.

The demonstrators at the defence ministry had said that they wanted to submit a petition for the armed forces to take their side in their attempt to remove Bashir and his Islamist-backed administration.

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