Sudan’s military rulers arrest ousted president’s brothers

The military council, which took over after Al-Bashir’s ouster, said the former president was transferred on Tuesday to a prison in the capital, Khartoum. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 April 2019

Sudan’s military rulers arrest ousted president’s brothers

  • Abdullah and Abbas Al-Bashir were arrested as part of the sweep against officials from the former government
  • The military ousted Omar Al-Bashir after four months of street protests against his 30-year rule

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s new military rulers arrested ousted President Omar Al-Bashir’s two brothers for corruption, part of a broad sweep against officials and supporters of the former government, the country’s official news agency reported Thursday.
The spokesman of the military council, Gen. Shams Eddin Kabashi, was quoted by SUNA as saying that Abdullah and Abbas Al-Bashir were taken into custody, without providing more details or saying when it happened.
The Sudanese military ousted Omar Al-Bashir last week, after four months of street protests against his 30-year rule marred by conflict, civil war and corruption. Al-Bashir is also wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court for atrocities committee in the western region of Darfur.
The brothers’ detention was likely another concession by the military to the protesters, who have demanded that all key figures and ranking officials from the former president’s circle be arrested. A number of Al-Bashir’s close associates and former government officials have already been taken into custody since the military overthrew Al-Bashir last Thursday.
The military council, which is now running the country, said the former president was transferred on Tuesday to Koper Prison in the capital, Khartoum, a facility notorious for holding political prisoners under Al-Bashir.

Huge crowds joined a protest outside Sudan's defence ministry on Thursday to demand that the country's transitional military council hand power to civilians, a Reuters witness said.
The crowds were the largest since former President Omar Al-Bashir was ousted a week ago and the military council took over, with hundreds of thousands packing the streets in the centre of the capital by early evening.
Protesters chanted "Freedom and revolution are the choice of the people" and "Civilian rule, civilian rule", and waved national flags overhead.
Activists who have been holding a sit-in outside the defence ministry compound in Khartoum since before Bashir's ouster had called for a mass protest on Thursday to increase pressure on the council.
It comes after an opposition coalition called this week on the military to establish a civilian-led ruling council with military representation, as well as a civilian government.
The council has said it is ready to meet some of the protesters demands, including fighting corruption, but has indicated that it would not hand over power to them.
The Khartoum sit-in was the culmination of 16 weeks of protests triggered by a worsening economic crisis in Sudan, leading to the ouster and arrest of Bashir after three decades in power.

The United States supports a democratic and peaceful transition in Sudan led by civilians who represent all Sudanese, the State Department said on Thursday, as protesters in Khartoum kept up demands that the country's military hand over power to civilians.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Sudan remained labeled by the US as a state sponsor of terrorism, and emphasized that Washington's policies toward Sudan would be based on "our assessment of events on the ground and the actions of transitional authorities."
She said the US was "encouraged" by the release of political prisoners and the cancellation by the transitional military council of a curfew.

Meanwhile, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir offered to mediate in Sudan’s political crisis. In a letter seen by The Associated Press, Kiir this week pledged his support for a transition where the rights of the Sudanese people are protected and offered to “mediate the on-going negotiations” among various groups.
Some in South Sudan are concerned that Al-Bashir’s departure will hurt their country’s fragile peace deal, which Al-Bashir helped broker. South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011, following decades of civil war.
But they new country subsequently sank into its own civil war, which ended with an agreement signed in September. The deal calls for opposition leader Riek Machar to return to South Sudan next month to once again become Kiir’s deputy, though that looks increasingly unlikely as tensions continue.
One political analyst called Kiir’s offer of mediation over Al-Bashir a “hypocritical public relations” stunt.
“It doesn’t make sense. You cannot leave your house in a mess and claim to clean your neighbor’s house,” Jacob Chol, professor at the University of Juba, told the AP.


Defense chief: US troops leaving Syria to go to western Iraq

Updated 17 min 23 sec ago

Defense chief: US troops leaving Syria to go to western Iraq

  • Esper did not rule out the idea that US forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria
  • US troops were continuing to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey’s invasion into the border region

ABOARD A US MILITARY AIRCRAFT: Defense Secretary Mark Esper says that under the current plan all US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military will continue to conduct operations against the Daesh group to prevent its resurgence.
Speaking to reporters traveling with him to the Middle East, Esper did not rule out the idea that US forces would conduct counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. But he said those details will be worked out over time.
His comments were the first to specifically lay out where American troops will go as they leave Syria and what the counter-Daesh fight could look like. Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift the more than 700 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.
The developments made clear that one of President Donald Trump’s rationales for withdrawing troops from Syria was not going to come to pass any time soon. “It’s time to bring our soldiers back home,” he said Wednesday. But they are not coming home.
As Esper left Washington on Saturday, US troops were continuing to pull out of northern Syria after Turkey’s invasion into the border region. Reports of sporadic clashes continued between Turkish-backed fighters and the US-allied Syria Kurdish forces despite a five-day cease-fire agreement hammered out on Friday between US and Turkish leaders.
Trump ordered the bulk of the approximately 1,000 US troops in Syria to withdraw after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear in a phone call that his forces were about to invade Syria to push back Kurdish forces that Turkey considers terrorists.
The pullout largely abandons the Kurdish allies who have fought the Daesh group alongside US troops for several years. Between 200 and 300 US troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf.
Esper said the troops going into Iraq will have two missions.
“One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-Daesh mission as we sort through the next steps,” he said. “Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now.”
The US currently has more than 5,000 American forces in Iraq, under an agreement between the two countries. The US pulled its troops out of Iraq in 2011 when combat operations there ended, but they went back in after the Daesh group began to take over large swaths of the country in 2014. The number of American forces in Iraq has remained small due to political sensitivities in the country, after years of what some Iraqis consider US occupation during the war that began in 2003.
Esper said he will talk with other allies at a NATO meeting in the coming week to discuss the way ahead for the counter-IS mission.
Asked if US special operations forces will conduct unilateral military operations into Syria to go after IS, Esper said that is an option that will be discussed with allies over time.
He said one of his top concerns is what the next phase of the counter-IS missions looks like, “but we have to work through those details. He said that if US forces do go in, they would be protected by American aircraft.
While he acknowledged reports of intermittent fighting despite the cease-fire agreement, he said that overall it “generally seems to be holding. We see a stability of the lines, if you will, on the ground.”
He also said that, so far, the Syrian Democratic Forces that partnered with the US to fight IS have maintained control of the prisons in Syria where they are still present. The Turks, he said, have indicated they have control of the IS prisons in their areas.
“I can’t assess whether that’s true or not without having people on the ground,” said Esper.
He added that the US withdrawal will be deliberate and safe, and will take “weeks not days.”
According to a US official on Saturday, about a couple of hundred troops have left Syria so far. The US forces have been largely consolidated in one location in the west and a few locations in the east.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing operations, said the US military is not closely monitoring the effectiveness of the cease-fire, but is aware of sporadic fighting and violations of the agreement. The official said it will still take a couple of weeks to get forces out of Syria.