KHARTOUM: Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has stepped down and consultations are under way to form a transitional council to run the country, government sources and a provincial minister said on Thursday.
The minister of production and economic resources in North Darfur, Adel Mahjoub Hussein, told the Dubai-based al-Hadath TV that "there are consultations to form a military council to take over power after President Bashir stepped down".
Sudanese sources confirmed the report and told Reuters Bashir was at the presidential residence under "heavy guard". The military will make an announcement soon, state television said as troops were deployed in Khartoum.
"The armed forces will present an important statement shortly. Be ready for it," the announcement on state television read, without giving further details.
The army and security services deployed troops around the defence ministry and on major roads and bridges in the capital as thousands of people flocked to an anti-government protest outside the ministry, a Reuters witness said.
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 United States added Bashir’s government to its list of terrorism sponsors for harbouring 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. At least 11 people died in the clashes, including six members of the armed forces, the information minister said, citing a police report.
Since Dec. 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.