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Sudan says coup thwarted, accuses Bashir loyalists

epaselect epa09239578 A member of the Sudanese army prepares before the 'Guardians of the Nile' joint Egyptian-Sudanese military exercise, in the North Omdurman area, Sudan, 31 May 2021. The Sudanese and Egyptian armed forces concluded a six-day joint exercises supervised by the Sudanese Chief of Staff Muhammad al-Hassan and the Egyptian Chief of Staff Mohamed Farid with ground, air and air defense forces participating. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED ABU OBAID

KHARTOUM, Sept 21 (Reuters) - Sudanese authorities said they had foiled an attempted coup on Tuesday, accusing loyalists of ousted president Omar al-Bashir of trying to reverse the revolution that removed him from power in 2019 and ushered in a transition to democracy.

* Government accuses Bashir loyalists in coup attempt

* Streets of Khartoum calm, witness says

* Coup points to difficult path ahead for government

* Elections to replace military-civilian council expected in 2024 (adds background, context)

In a brief statement on state TV, the army said the situation was under control. The streets of the capital Khartoum appeared calm, with people moving around as usual and no unusual deployments of security forces, a witness said.

The coup attempt points to the difficult path facing a government that has reoriented Sudan since 2019, winning Western debt relief and taking steps to normalise ties with Israel, while battling a severe economic crisis and facing down challenges from those still loyal to Bashir.

A ruling body known as the Sovereign Council has run Sudan under a fragile power-sharing deal between the military and civilians since the overthrow of Bashir, an Islamist shunned by the West who presided over Sudan for nearly three decades.

Elections are expected in 2024.

A government spokesman said remnants of Bashir’s government had participated in the coup attempt.

“We assure the Sudanese people that the situation is under complete control as the civilian and military organizers of the coup attempt have been arrested, and they are being interrogated now,” spokesman Hamza Balol said on state TV.

The authorities continued to pursue Bashir loyalists who had taken part, he said.

Early on Tuesday morning, a witness said military units loyal to the council had used tanks to close a bridge connecting Khartoum with Omdurman, just across the River Nile.

A government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the coup attempt had involved an effort to take control of state radio in Omdurman.

One of Sudan’s largest political parties, the Umma Party, called for citizens to resist the coup attempt, which it described as “a continuation of desperate attempts to abort our glorious revolution from officers loyal to the former regime.”

Bashir is presently in prison in Khartoum, where he faces several trials.

Religious affairs minister Nasr Eldeen Mofarih also appeared to direct blame at Bashir loyalists.

“It is now time to sweep away the remnants of the Islamists from our political and military institutions,” he wrote on Twitter.

COUPS AND CONFLICTS

It was not the first challenge to the transitional authorities. They say they have foiled or detected previous coup attempts linked to factions loyal to Bashir, who was deposed by the army after months of protests against his rule.

In 2020, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok survived an assassination attempt in Khartoum.

Sudan has gradually been welcomed into the international fold since the overthrow of Bashir, who is sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) over alleged atrocities committed in Darfur in the early 2000s.

The ICC’s chief prosecutor held talks with Sudanese officials last month on accelerating steps to hand over those wanted over Darfur.

Despite a peace deal signed last year with some Sudanese rebels, there has been increased unrest in recent months in the western region of Darfur as well as local clashes in Sudan’s east.

Sudan’s economy has been in deep crisis since before Bashir’s removal and the transitional government has undergone a reform programme monitored by the International Monetary Fund.

Underlining Western support for the transitional authorities, the Paris Club of official creditors agreed in July to cancel $14 billion of Sudan’s debt. But Sudanese are still struggling with rapid inflation and shortages.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz and Ali Mirghani Writing by Aidan Lewis and Tom Perry; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Giles Elgood and Angus MacSwan)

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