Sudanese security forces have arrested 10 military officers who were allegedly plotting to overthrow the government, a military official said on Monday.
The official, who asked not to be named, said the officers were arrested on Sunday and were mostly from war-torn western Sudan.
He said they all had sympathies to the opposition Popular Congress party, led by Islamist leader Hasan al-Turabi.
"There are 10, all of officer rank, under the leadership of a colonel... It was an attempt at a coup d'etat," the military official said, adding that the group had been caught meeting in a military headquarters in Khartoum.
Al-Turabi denied his party was involved in a coup bid but said his sources had told him around 27 officers had been arrested.
The opposition leader is a former ally of Sudanese President Umar Hasan al-Bashir, who seized power in a 1989 military coup.
An assistant to al-Turabi, Abd Allah Hasan Ahmad, told Aljazeera that he was sent for by the head of the security apparatus on Monday morning and informed that "there was a plot for a coup in the states of Darfur and Kardafan and that the Popular Conference party was part of the conspiracy."
An Interior Ministry official had no comment on the report.
Amid rumours of arrests, the local press said they had been told by security forces not to publish anything on the issue.
The military official said nine officers were from Darfur in west Sudan where the government has been fighting rebels for more than a year.
The government has said major conflict in the area is over, but witnesses say government planes have bombed the area in recent weeks.
"The fact that five of the officers implicated were from the air force has very far reaching consequences because of the government's reliance on aerial bombardment in its war against the rebels in Darfur," the military official said.
The government of Umar
al-Bashir has bombed Darfur
Al-Turabi was detained in 2001 after a power struggle with al-Bashir and released from house arrest in October.
He said while his Popular Congress party was not involved in any coup attempt he supported claims by the western rebels that their region has been neglected by the central government.
"It's not only a purge. It is going to be a charge of attempted coup d'etat," he told Reuters by telephone in Cairo about those officers arrested. He also said the officers were from the Darfur region, nearby Kurdufan and other areas.
In addition, al-Turabi said five senior members of his party had been detained on Monday, with the first arrests made in the early morning. But he said it was not clear whether they would be kept for questioning of a few hours or held longer.
Another party official said a further seven activists had been arrested.
Al-Turabi also revealed that six senior officials of the Popular Congress have been detained in a government clampdown, linking the arrests to a bloody rebellion in the western region of Darfur.
Three politburo members of the Popular Congress were among the six officials detained on Sunday night, Turabi told reporters, adding that other party leaders had been called in for questioning before being released.
"It's not only a purge. It is going to be a charge of attempted coup d'etat"
Sudanese Interior Ministry
Al-Turabi linked the crackdown to government charges that his party materially supports the rebel movement among Darfur's indigenous non-Arab minorities, an allegation he vigorously denied.
The one-time mentor of President al-Bashir, al-Turabi was freed from three years of house arrest in October last year.