Army tanks rolled onto the streets of Khartoum and the fate of President Omar al-Bashir was uncertain with military and government sources saying that the embattled leader had been relieved of his duties.
The Sudanese army is expected to make “an important announcement”, state media said on Thursday, after months of protests against al-Bashir.
“The Sudanese army will issue an important statement soon. Wait for it,” a television anchor said, without giving further details.
Thousands of people poured onto the streets of the capital as they waited hours for the announcement.
At least two army tanks, one with jubilant demonstrators on top, moved through the capital.
Witnesses reported gunfire near the military headquarters that have been at the centre of six days of a defiant sit-in.
The military’s headquarters also houses al-Bashir’s official residence and the defence ministry.
The National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) said on Thursday all political prisoners had been released, the country’s state news agency reported.
The unrest erupted in December when demonstrations broke out over a rise in bread prices. They have grown to become the biggest challenge yet to al-Bashir’s 30-year rule.
Crowds of demonstrators have spent five nights thronging the sprawling complex, singing and dancing to revolutionary songs.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum said there was a heavy security presence on the city’s main roads.
“There are a lot of military trucks around the capital and around the main streets of the city. Most roads have been blocked, especially those leading to the army HQ. There are a few roads opened for the protesters who have been participating in the sit-in,” Morgan said.
“People are extremely happy, even before the army made any announcement. People are celebrating and pouring into the sit-in area. Protesters are saying they are very confident that al-Bashir will resign,” Morgan added.
The group spearheading the nationwide demonstrations urged residents of the capital to mass outside the army headquarters.
“We call on our people from across the Khartoum capital and the region around to immediately go to the sit-in area and not leave from there until our next statement is issued,” the Sudanese Professionals Association said.
The group also said they will not accept a military government to succeed President al-Bashir.
Protesters at the sit-in told Al Jazeera they feel their calls have been heard.
“We finally win this battle, we struggled a lot and we suffered a lot but everything suppose to have an end,” 45-year-old tea seller Fathia Imam told Al Jazeera at the square of the sit-in.
Abdul Galil Ahmed, a 28-year-old activist, said he is worried that some of President al-Bashir’s close allies could remain in office.
“We are worried about the future and the fate of our uprising because we doubt the regime would be toppled as [a] whole,” Ahmed told Al Jazeera.
Witnesses said army soldiers arrested two snipers near the military headquarters on Thursday.
Observers say although it remains unclear what the armed forces will announce, it appears as though the army has decided to support the protesters.
Mahjoob Zweiri, professor of Middle East history at Qatar University told Al Jazeera: “During the past 10 days, it was obvious that there was a shift in the movement in Sudan. This shift started with the military changing its own course towards the demands of the people.
“Over the last 24 hours, the demands and the number of participants [in the protests] increased, putting pressure on the military institution as a whole and making the army feel the need to take action.”
Ahmed Soliman, a researcher at the Africa Programme at Chatham House, told Al Jazeera that while he expects the army to announce the end of Bashir’s 30-year-rule within the next few hours, fears remain that the movement may be coopted by the security forces or internal factions within the armed forces.
“Bashir has spent the last 30 years working to insulate his regime and there is a deep web we’ve seen unravel over the past few months. He [Bashir] has created multiple security forces, militias and has an extremely powerful intelligence and security service which we’ve seen trying to infiltrate these mass protests.”
“We will have a clearer indication of what will happen when the statement is made.”
The demonstrators have braved repeated volleys of tear gas from members of the powerful NISS since they began camping outside the complex on April 6, protest organisers say.
But since Tuesday night, they have not faced any “threat” from security agents, said a protester who requested anonymity for security reasons.
Eleven people, including six members of the security forces, were killed on Tuesday during demonstrations in the capital, government spokesman Hassan Ismail told the official SUNA news agency.
Government officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations first erupted in December.
“I hope our revolution will achieve its goal,” said Alaa Salah, dubbed the protest movement’s “Nubian queen”, referring to an ancient name for Sudan, after a video clip went viral of her conducting chants with demonstrators outside the army headquarters.
“The time has come for the Sudanese authorities to respond to these popular demands in a serious” way, the countries’ Khartoum embassies said in a statement.
“The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition.”
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide, came to power in a 1989 coup. He remains one of the longest-serving presidents in Africa.
Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party said plans to hold a rally backing the president on Thursday had been postponed.
Mohammed Amin contributed reporting from Khartoum