Sudan: 'Coup plot' amid growing turmoil

Nov. 27, 2012 at 4:46 PM
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KHARTOUM, Sudan, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- The recent arrests of Sudan's former intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Salah Abdallah Gosh and others on charges of plotting a coup against President Omar al-Bashir suggests that his regime is gripped by internal rifts amid upheaval in the Arab world.

Gosh was one 13 officials in the Khartoum regime who were rounded up by Bashir's security troops Nov. 22 in what authorities described as pre-emptive move against a group plotting against "the stability of the state and some leaders of the state."

The arrests indicate an unusually serious rift within the regime and one that Bashir deems a viable threat at a time of worsening domestic turmoil.

His 23-year-old regime has been battered by the loss of oil revenue from South Sudan, which is now an independent country; growing domestic discontent in the wake of the pro-democracy fervor that's swept the Arab world since January 2011; long-running conflict in the Darfur region; and a series of border uprisings.

Gosh was director of Sudan's powerful National Security and Intelligence Service for 10 years until August 2009.

Bashir, who seized power in an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989, "promoted" him to become the presidential adviser for national security affairs. After September 2001, Gosh became an important ally of the CIA on counter-terrorism and visited Washington.

That may have had something to do with his dismissal as NSIS chief. But there was speculation in 2009 that Gosh was sacked as intelligence chief because he was suspected of plotting against Bashir.

The president, aware of Gosh's knowledge of the regime's secrets, named him an adviser because he wanted to keep him under his eye.

Gosh was replaced as intelligence chief by his longtime deputy, Brig. Gen. Mohamed Ellatta. Once a member of Bashir's inner circle, Gosh was dismissed in April 2011 for criticizing the regime.

Those arrested with Gosh included Brig. Gen. Mohamed Ibrahim, a war hero among the Islamist forces who've backed Bashir in Sudan's civil wars, and Gen. Mohamed Ibn Ouf, former head of Military Intelligence.

The alleged plot apparently centers on a faction of the Islamic Movement, an influential organization that advises the ruling National Congress Party. The faction sought to push through political reforms this month but was blocked by Bashir's supporters at a meeting in Khartoum.

Gosh didn't attend that gathering but he's been pushing for changes in the leadership for some time.

ashir's critics accuse him of abandoning the Islamic values of the 1989 coup that has concentrated power in the hands of himself and his cronies.

Gosh's parliamentary immunity was lifted Nov. 23, suggesting that Bashir's out to eliminate him as a political rival, along with the other reformists.

Bashir's health has been rumored to be failing for several months after "minor surgery" on his vocal chords. He returned to Khartoum from Saudi Arabia several days go after further surgery.

Bashir has crushed several moves to topple him since 1989, the most notable involving Hassan al-Turabi, the Islamist eminence grise of the regime until a split in 1999.

But observers see the current threat as more dangerous because some of the men arrested last week are from Bashir's hometown of Shendi.

"These people are from his own tribe and from his inner circle," said an army officer familiar with those detained.

He warned that there's been growing discontent within the military. Earlier this year, some 700 officers petitioned Bashir about deteriorating conditions in the army after years of fighting.

They also demanded action to stamp out rampant corruption.

The tension in Khartoum comes amid renewed scrutiny of the regime's links to Iran and Tehran's clandestine war with Israel.

It's not clear whether there's any link between the alleged plot and the growing ties between Bashir's regime and Tehran.

But that relationship came under scrutiny following an Oct. 23 airstrike, reputedly carried out by the Israeli air force, on an arms manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Khartoum that was allegedly producing Iranian missiles for shipment to Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

Sudan and Iran have been allies for many years and consolidated military links with a 2008 defense agreement.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards has allegedly shipped weapons to Hamas in Gaza through the Red Sea to Sudan for several years. At least three shipments were destroyed in long-range Israeli airstrikes in 2010.

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