Sudan quells revolt of former spy service men after clashes

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Armed ex-security agents linked to Sudan’s toppled ruler Omar al-Bashir fought soldiers in the capital Khartoum for hours until government forces quelled the revolt late on Tuesday, residents and a military source said.

The violence was the biggest confrontation so far between the old guard and supporters of the new administration, which helped topple Bashir in April after 30 years in power.

The former employees of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) also shut two small oilfields in Darfur in protest about their severance packages, a government source told Reuters. They had an output of around 5,000 barrels per day.

Late Tuesday, soldiers seized back control of all buildings where ex-NISS agents had hours earlier opened fire on government forces, a military source told Reuters.

The former NISS staff surrendered after negotiations, the source said.

Restructuring the once feared security apparatus blamed for suppressing dissent under Bashir was among the key demands of the uprising that forced his removal.

However, once dismissed by the new transitional government, many of the security agents returned to their barracks without being disarmed after leaving the ministries and streets they once controlled.

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Residents said the clashes broke out at noon between the former security staff and forces loyal to the transitional government in a northern district of Khartoum where gunfire could be heard for hours.

In a second location next to the airport, ex-NISS staff seized a security building, which was then surrounded by government forces and where gunfire could also be heard, witnesses said.

Four people suffered gunshot wounds but were in stable condition, a doctors’ committee linked to the civilian government said in a statement.

Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Sudan’s most powerful paramilitary group, which supports the new government, said while he would not consider Tuesday’s incident a coup attempt, any such action would not be tolerated.

“We will not accept any coup, we will not accept any illegal change. The only change will come from the Sudanese people,” he said before his troops helped end the revolt.

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Information Minister Faisal Mohamed Saleh said the gunmen were former employees angry at the terms they had been offered upon their dismissal.

Authorities closed Sudan’s airspace for five hours as a precautionary measure after the start of the shooting, a Civil Aviation Ministry spokesman said.

Dagalo said that former Sudan intelligence chief Salah Gosh and a member of Bashir’s old ruling party was behind the NISS unrest.

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“This is a coordinated plan by Salah Gosh and another member of the National Congress party including some generals from intelligence service,” he told a news conference during a visit to South Sudan’s capital Juba on Tuesday.

“The person behind this shooting today is Salah Gosh. He has many generals active within the security sector with an aim to create confusion and fighting.”

Gosh, believed to be in Egypt, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Eltayeb Siddig and Nayera Abdallah with additional reporting by Denis Dumo in Juba; Writing by Amina Ismail and Ulf Laessing; Editing by William Maclean, Alison Williams, and Marguerita Choy