Sudanese authorities said they arrested 13 people on Thursday, including the once-powerful head of national security, on suspicion of involvement in an apparent military coup attempt.
State-run Omdurman radio said a "subversive plot" — a term often used by Khartoum to refer to plans for a coup — was uncovered and aborted. Among those arrested was former head of National Security and Intelligence Services Lt. Gen. Salah Abdallah Gosh, according to remarks by Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman carried by the state Sudan News Agency.
The minister said that the 13 are being interrogated. "The government has decided to abort this plot just before the zero hour as a preventive measure to avoid entering the country into chaos," Osman said, adding that there was evidence of plots to target top leaders in government. He did not elaborate.
Gosh was Sudan's intelligence chief for 10 years before being promoted to security adviser in 2009. Once a member of the president's inner circle, Gosh was sacked as adviser in April 2011 for becoming critical of the regime.
The general was said to have played a key role in supporting pro-government militias involved in Sudan's Darfur conflict. More than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict since rebels took up arms against the central government nearly 10 years ago, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. Violence has tapered off, but clashes continue.
Also detained in connection with the alleged coup is Maj. Gen. Adil Al-Tayeb of military intelligence and Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim, a field commander with the Sudanese Armed Forces. No other names were released.
Gosh became vocal in later years of his career, calling for talks among Sudanese political parties and challenging the No. 2 figure in the ruling National Congress Party, Nafi Ali Nafi. This prompted speculation that al-Bashir's ruling party was cracking from within.
Last summer, Sudan crushed pro-democracy protests inspired by Arab Spring uprisings. Hundreds of protesters were arrested and detained for demanding the ouster of al-Bashir's 23-year-old regime. His government is rapidly losing popularity at home for imposing painful economic austerity measures, while the president is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Darfur.