Sudan’s military seized power Monday, dissolving the transitional government hours after troops arrested the prime minister, and thousands flooded the streets to protest the coup that threatened the country’s shaky progress toward democracy.
Security forces opened fire on some of them, and three protesters were killed, according to the Sudan Doctors’ Committee, which also said 80 people were wounded.
The takeover, which drew condemnation from the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, comes more than two years after protesters forced the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir and just weeks before the military was supposed to hand the leadership of the council that runs the country over to civilians.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency closed meeting on the Sudan coup late Tuesday afternoon. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Norway and Estonia requested the emergency consultations.
After the early morning arrests of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior officials, thousands demonstrated in the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman. They blocked streets and set fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them.
As plumes of smoke rose, protesters could be heard chanting, “The people are stronger, stronger!” and “Retreat is not an option!” Social media video showed crowds crossing bridges over the Nile to the center of the capital. The U.S. Embassy warned that troops were blocking parts of the city and urged the military “to immediately cease violence.”
Pro-democracy activist Dura Gambo said paramilitary forces chased protesters through some Khartoum neighborhoods.
Records from a Khartoum hospital obtained by The Associated Press showed some people admitted with gunshot wounds.
The head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, announced on national TV that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body created soon after al-Bashir’s ouster to run the country.
Burhan said quarrels among political factions prompted the military intervention. Tensions have been rising for weeks over the course and the pace of the transition to democracy in Sudan, a nation in Africa linked by language and culture to the Arab world.
The general declared a state of emergency and said the military will appoint a technocratic government to lead the country to elections, set for July 2023. But he made clear the military will remain in charge.
“The Armed Forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country’s leadership to a civilian, elected government,” he said. He added that the constitution would be rewritten and a legislative body would be formed with the participation of “young men and women who made this revolution.”
The Information Ministry, still loyal to the dissolved government, called his speech an “announcement of a seizure of power by military coup.”
As darkness fell in Khartoum, barricades were still burning and occasional gunshots could be heard, said Volker Perthes, the U.N. special envoy for Sudan, at a briefing in New York.
President Joe Biden was briefed on Sudan in the morning, said White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre. She added that the U.S. was “deeply alarmed at reports of a military takeover" and called for the immediate release of the prime minister and other officials.
“The actions today are in stark opposition to the will of the Sudanese people and their aspirations for peace, liberty and justice,” Jean-Pierre said.
The Biden administration is suspending $700 million in emergency economic aid to Sudan that had been allocated to help the transition, said State Department spokesman Ned Price. He called it a “pause,” and urged the civilian-led government be immediately restored.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly condemns the ongoing military coup d’état in Khartoum and all actions that could jeopardize Sudan’s political transition and stability,” said his spokesman, spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
Guterres also called for the release of the government officials, the spokesman said, as did the African Union. EU foreign affairs chief Joseph Borrell tweeted that he was following the events with the “utmost concern.”