Khartoum: Sudan's military seized power in a coup on Monday, while youths opposed to the takeover barricaded streets and gunfire was heard as demonstrators clashed with the security forces.
The military dissolved a transitional government that had been set up to guide the country to democracy following the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago.
General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sovereign Council under which the military had shared power with civilians, announced a state of emergency, saying the armed forces needed to protect safety and security.
"We guarantee the armed forces' commitment to completing the democratic transition until we hand over to a civilian elected government," he said, setting elections for July 2023.
"What the country is going through now is a real threat and danger to the dreams of the youth and the hopes of the nation."
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was detained and taken to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the takeover, said the information ministry, which was still apparently under the control of Hamdok's supporters.
The ministry called Burhan's announcement a military coup and urged resistance. It said tens of thousands of people opposed to the takeover had taken to the streets and had faced gunfire near the military headquarters in Khartoum.
At least 12 people were injured in clashes, a doctors' committee said, without providing further details.
In Khartoum's twin city Omdurman, protesters barricaded streets and chanted in support of civilian rule."We will defend democracy until the end," said one protester, 21-year-old Iman Ahmed. "Burhan cannot deceive us. This is a military coup," said another young man who gave his name as Saleh.
The information ministry said troops had arrested civilian members of the Sovereign Council and government figures. It called on Sudanese to oppose the military attempt "to block the democratic transition".
"We raise our voices loudly to reject this coup attempt," it said in a statement.Sudan has been ruled for most of its post-colonial history by military leaders who seized power in coups. It had become a pariah to the West and was on the U.S. terrorism blacklist under Bashir, who hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes.
The country had been on edge since last month when a failed coup plot, blamed on Bashir supporters, unleashed recriminations between the military and civilians in the transitional cabinet.
In recent weeks a coalition of rebel groups and political parties aligned themselves with the military and called on it to dissolve the civilian government, while cabinet ministers took part in protests against the prospect of military rule.
Sudan has also been suffering a grave economic crisis. Helped by foreign aid, civilian officials have claimed credit for some tentative signs of stabilisation after a sharp devaluation of the currency and the lifting of fuel subsidies.
Washington had tried to avert the collapse of the power-sharing agreement by sending a special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman. The director of Hamdok's office, Adam Hereika said the military had mounted the takeover despite "positive movements" towards an agreement after meetings with Feltman in recent days.
White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said: "We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister and others who have been placed under house arrest."
Democratic Senator Chris Coons, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said on Twitter U.S. support for Sudan would "end if the authority of PM Hamdok & the full transitional government is not restored". A U.S. law bars funding governments brought to power by a military coup.
The military had been meant to pass on leadership of the Sovereign Council to a civilian figure in the coming months. But transitional authorities had struggled to move forward on issues including whether to hand Bashir over to the Hague.
Burhan said it was incumbent on the armed forces to act to halt "incitement to chaos and violence".
The United Nations, Arab League and African Union all expressed concern. Sudan's political leaders should be released and human rights respected, AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement.
Britain called the coup an unacceptable betrayal of the Sudanese people. France called for the immediate release of Hamdok and other civilian leaders. Egypt called on all parties to exercise self-restraint. Saudi Arabia said it was following developments with extreme concern.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, an activist coalition in the uprising against Bashir, called for a strike.
Burhan's "reckless decisions will increase the ferocity of the street's resistance and unity after all illusions of partnership are removed," it said on its Facebook page.
The main opposition Forces of Freedom and Change alliance called for civil disobedience and protests across the country.
Military forces stormed Sudanese Radio and Television headquarters in Omdurman and arrested employees, the information ministry said on its Facebook page. Two major political parties, the Umma and the Sudanese Congress, condemned what they called a coup and campaign of arrests.
Hamdok, an economist and former senior U.N. official, was appointed as a technocratic prime minister in 2019 but struggled to sustain the transition amid splits between the military and civilians and the pressures of the economic crisis.