Former Sudan spy service men open fire in protest at dismissal terms

by Reuters
Tuesday, 14 January 2020 16:49 GMT

(Adds Dagalo remarks, paragraphs 8-11)

By Khaled Abelaziz

KHARTOUM, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Dismissed ex-employees of Sudan's National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS) shot in the air in Khartoum on Tuesday in protest at severance terms, prompting a heavy security force deployment and the temporary closure of the country's airspace.

A Reuters witness saw members of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), Sudan's most powerful paramilitary group, and the army deploy in Khartoum's main streets and shut down roads after gunmen opened fire outside buildings used by NISS.

In a televised statement, Information Minister Faisal Mohamed Saleh said the gunmen were former employees angry at the terms they had been offered upon their dismissal.

The authorities "continue their efforts to persuade the rebellious units to surrender and hand over their arms," said Saleh, adding that there were no casualties.

Security forces blocked the road leading to one of the buildings, the witness added. The district is close to the capital's airport.

Authorities closed Sudan's airspace for five hours as a precautionary measure after the start of the shooting, a civil aviation ministry spokesman said.

Sudan is undergoing a three-year political transition overseen by civilians and the military following the overthrow of long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

Lieutenant General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council and head of the RSF, said that former Sudan intelligence chief Salah Gosh was behind the shootings. "This is a coordinated plan by Salah Gosh and another member of the National Congress party including some generals from intelligence service," he told a press conference during a visit to Juba in South Sudan later on Tuesday.

"The person behind this shooting today is Salah Gosh. He has many generals active within the security sector with an aim to create confusion and fighting."

Dagalo said while he would not consider Tuesday's incident a coup attempt, any such action would not bee tolerated. "We will not accept any coup, we will not accept any illegal change. The only change will come from the Sudanese people," he said.

Gosh could not be immediately reached for comment.

Restructuring NISS was among the key demands of the uprising that called for Bashir's removal from power. The dismissals were part of the plan to restructure the intelligence agency.

Masked members of NISS dressed in military uniform set up checkpoints in one of Khartoum's main residential streets near the building and were seen firing shots into the air, one of the witnesses said.

The Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), the country's main protest group, called on state agencies to intervene immediately to stop "these irresponsible operations that are causing terror amongst citizens."

Unverified video footage posted on social media purporting to show the area where the clashes occurred featured sounds of gunfire. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Eltayeb Siddig and Nayera Abdallah with additional reporting by Denis Dumo in Juba, writing by Amina Ismail; editing by Ulf Laessing and William Maclean/Mark Heinrich)

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