South Sudan has just turned one year old, but not everybody is able to celebrate the nation’s birthday.
Sudanese security officials say they have arrested 13 people, including the former head of the country’s powerful intelligence service, over an alleged plot to sabotage national security within the African state.
Salah Gosh, former head of the intelligence and security agency, was arrested with others on suspicion of “inciting chaos”, “targeting” some leaders and spreading rumours about President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s health, the Sudanese information minister said on Thursday.
“Thirteen people were arrested … The situation is now totally stable“
– Ahmed Belal Osman,
“Thirteen people were arrested,” Ahmed Belal Osman, the minister, said.
“The situation is now totally stable.”
Al Jazeera’s Harriet Martin, reporting from Khartoum, said they were accused of “planning to incite chaos in Sudan at a very sensitive time”.
Witnesses described seeing armoured vehicles and troops in the tightly controlled centre of the capital, Khartoum, in the early hours of Thursday, although news agencies said there was no increase in security later on.
Sudan’s security and intelligence agency “foiled a sabotage plot this morning aimed at bringing about security disturbances in the country led by figures from the opposition forces”, the Sudanese Media Centre reported on its Arabic-language website.
Quoting a security source, the media centre said authorities arrested “military and civilian figures” in connection with the plot to destabilise the country.
Bashir has maintained a near 25-year hold on power, even as a series of uprisings troubled the country’s poor border areas, including the conflict-torn region of Darfur.
But Sudan has been stuck in economic crisis since the south – the source of most of its known oil-reserves – declared
independence last year under the terms of a peace deal.
High prices for food and other basics have added to widespread public anger over losing the south and have emboldened opposition activists to call for protests. Analysts say the crisis has also exacerbated divisions in the government.
Unrest over price rises and food and fuel shortages has preceded coups to overthrow the government in Sudan in the past.
Sudan has been plagued by political conflicts and crises for most of its history since independence from Britain in 1956.
Decades of civil war between the north and south culminated with South Sudan’s independence in July last year under a 2005 peace deal.
Tensions in both nations and between the two states have been high since then. The two countries accused one another of incursions in disputed border zones on Wednesday, a setback to recent security and border deals.
Small demonstrations against cuts in fuel subsidies and other austerity measures broke out across Sudan in June but decreased after a security crackdown and the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.