:: Peoples Time Online ::
Sudanese crowds demanding the ouster of President Omar al-Bashir flooded to the army headquarters on Thursday chanting “the regime has fallen,” as they awaited an “important announcement” from the military.
Sources and witnesses told AFP that soldiers had raided both the state television and the offices of a group linked to Bashir’s ruling party.
Thousands of Khartoum residents were filling the area around army headquarters where protesters have held an unprecedented sit-in now in its sixth day.
“The Sudanese army will issue an important statement soon. Wait for it,” the state television anchor said, without giving further details.
Army vehicles carrying troops were seen deploying in the centre of Khartoum.
As martial music replaced normal programming, a source working at state television told AFP that at about 5:00 am (0300 GMT) a group of army officers came to the building.
They ordered technicians to broadcast only that the army would be making an important announcement soon.
Soldiers also raided the offices of the Islamic Movement, the ideological wing of the Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party, witnesses told AFP.
– ‘Regime must go’ –
The protests, which erupted in December over the government’s tripling of the price of bread, have become the biggest challenge yet to Bashir’s three decades of iron-fisted rule.
“We are waiting for big news,” one protester told AFP from the sit-in.
“We won’t leave from here until we know what it is. But we do know that Bashir has to go.
“We had enough of this regime — 30 years of repression, corruption, rights abuses, it’s enough.”
Demonstrators have spent five nights defiantly camped outside the sprawling headquarters complex, which also houses Bashir’s official residence and the defence ministry.
There has been an often festive mood at the sit-in, with protesters singing and dancing to the tunes of revolutionary songs.
The group spearheading the nationwide demonstrations urged residents of the capital to join the sit-in and thousands heeded it call.
“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.
– Death toll mounts –
The wider alliance the SPA has formed with opposition parties and some rebel groups from Sudan’s war-torn regions said the sit-in would continue until Bashir steps down and makes way for sweeping reforms.
“We have to continue to gather at the sit-in area until the conditions of our revolution as agreed by our alliance have been met,” the Alliance for Freedom and Change said.
The demonstrators have braved repeated volleys of tear gas from members of the powerful National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) since they began camping outside the complex on Saturday, protest organisers say.
But for the first time on Tuesday night they did not face any “threat” from security agents, said a protester who requested anonymity for security reasons.
That came after 11 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.
Officials say 49 people have died in protest-related violence since demonstrations first erupted in December.
– ‘Time for transition’ –
“I hope our revolution will achieve its goal,” said Alaa Salah, dubbed the protest movement’s “Nubian queen”, after a video clip went viral of her conducting chants with demonstrators outside army headquarters.
Earlier this week, the US, Britain and Norway for the first time threw their weight behind the protesters.
“The Sudanese authorities must now respond and deliver a credible plan for this political transition,” the countries’ Khartoum embassies said in a statement.
Sudan, along with Iran, Syria and North Korea, is on Washington’s blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.
Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes and genocide, came to power in a 1989 coup. He is one of Africa’s longest-serving presidents.
The intelligence services said they were “monitoring the demonstrations and discharging its duty according to law”.
Bashir’s ruling National Congress Party said plans to hold a rally backing the president on Thursday had been postponed.
Sudan’s police has ordered its forces not to intervene against protesters.
“We call on God to preserve the security and calm of our country… and to unite the Sudanese people… for an agreement which would support the peaceful transition of power,” it said in a statement.
On Wednesday, protesters were raising funds to ensure a regular supply of food and water for the crowd.
“Many shop owners and businessmen have offered us free supplies,” said one demonstrator.
Protesters set up five big screens at the sit-in site to screen football matches, an onlooker said.