Heavy gunfire broke out in Sudan’s capital Tuesday as several agents of the long-feared security agency launched a “rebellion” against a restructuring plan, prompting a closure of the international airport.
The shots were fired at some bases of the Directorate of General Intelligence Service, formerly known as the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the powerful security arm of longtime president Omar al-Bashir.
NISS agents were at the forefront of a crackdown against protesters during a nationwide anti-Bashir uprising that erupted in December 2018 and finally led to his ouster by the army last April.
Witnesses and an AFP correspondent reported that gunfire broke out at the agency’s bases in Riyadh and Khartoum North.
All streets leading to the two bases were cordoned off, causing traffic jams, witnesses said.
The AFP correspondent also said several vehicles carrying soldiers and troops from the Rapid Support Forces had headed towards the bases.
“Troops from operating centres of the intelligence started a rebellion in some parts of the capital,” government spokesman Faisal Mohamed Saleh later told state television.
He said some troops had came out on the streets, set up barricades and opened fire in the air.
“This happened because those troops rejected the amount of money they got for their retirement,” Saleh said, adding there was no immediate report of any casualties.
“But we are calling on the people to avoid coming near these areas,” he said, adding that negotiations were being held.
The security agency, in a statement, said it was “assessing the situation”.
“In the process of restructuring NISS, there are some members who have rejected the financial compensation offered for retirement,” it said.
A security source told AFP that the first shooting broke out in the city of Al-Obeid after which gunfire erupted at NISS bases in Khartoum.
“Negotiations are now on to solve the issue as they have financial demands,” the source said on condition of anonymity.
Authorities also closed the capital’s airport, the civil aviation authority said.
“Khartoum airport has been closed for five hours until 8 pm local time (1800 GMT) for security reasons,” spokesman Abdelhafiz Abdelrahim told AFP.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said the situation was under control.
“We want to tell our people that the situation is under control and this will not stop us from achieving the goals of our revolution,” he tweeted.
“I assure that Sudanese armed forces and other regular forces have the capacity to handle the situation,” he wrote.