KHARTOUM // Senior military and state intelligence figures were arrested yesterday in connection with a plot targeting "national stability" in Sudan.
The information minister said 13 people, including prominent retired general Saleh Gosh, Adil Al Tayeb from the National Intelligence and Security Service and Brig Mohammed Ibrahim had been arrested.
The details of the alleged plot were not clear, but the minister said that the men were targeting the stability of the state and the leaders of the state.
The arrests come after months of unease in the Sudanese capital, where a series of shocks have rocked the power base of the president, Omar Al Bashir, and political insiders say that calls for reform have grown louder both from opposition groups, the ruling National Congress party and security apparatus.
Mr Al Bashir replaced Mr Gosh with Mr Gosh's number two, Gen Mohamed Atta Al Moula, in August 2009.
Mr Gosh then became presidential security adviser until he was sacked early last year. He had been pushing for dialogue with the political opposition.
"The atmosphere in Sudan is expecting something like this," said Khalid Tigani Elnour of the Elaff weekly newspaper, "because there are so many differences in the government ... the political situation in Sudan is fluid."
More than a year after South Sudan became independent, depriving Khartoum of much of the revenue which used to come from the oil-rich south, Mr Al Bashir, who has ruled the country for 23 years, faces economic problems as well as simmering security issues along the south-north border and in the still-restive Darfur region.
With dwindling resources to fund petrol subsidies and control food prices, prices have dramatically risen in Sudan during the past year, with annual inflation currently estimated at about 45 per cent, people have been severely affected and there have been a series of demonstrations this year.
The ruling party has also faced political dissent, including from the Islamist wing, some of whose members used a conference held last week to express dissatisfaction at the government's heavy hand in controlling other political groups.
Saleh Osman, a former communist MP and long-time opponent of the government, said that the military and the security forces, which between them receive about 70 per cent of the state budget, are a powerful force in government ministries, as well as in other fields such as business and the judiciary.
Other observers have suggested that although a full-scale military coup is unlikely, some top leaders disagree with government policy, and there have been a number of high-level sackings of military officials. Mr Osman suggested that the dismissals were linked to fears of such plots as the one reported yesterday.
"The military may have been weakened," he said.
Farouk Abu Issa, the spokesman for an alliance of more than 20 opposition parties, said he had heard about the plot allegation, "but I think it is fake".
He said the opposition supports democratic, peaceful change through strikes and demonstrations.
"The government knows that," he said, adding that no opposition politicians were detained over the alleged incident.
A witness said that he saw troops moving early yesterday, but there were no signs of extra troops later in the day.
* With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse