Heavy gunfire erupted in the Sudanese capital as agents of the country’s long-feared security service rejected financial compensation offered as part of a restructuring plan proposed by the new authorities.
Shooting broke out on Tuesday at some bases of the Directorate of General Intelligence Service, formerly known as the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), the powerful security arm of longtime Islamist autocrat Omar al-Bashir, in the upscale Riyadh district and in Khartoum North, according to witnesses.
The gunmen belong to a now-disbanded operations unit who are angry after being told to either retire or join the Rapid Support Forces.
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NISS security agents were at the forefront of cracking down on protesters during the nationwide uprising that erupted against al-Bashir in December 2018.
The army ousted al-Bashir in April 2019, and the country’s new authorities have vowed to reform NISS.
Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan, reporting from Khartoum, said the members of the disbanded unit reject the reform, saying they did not want to join the Rapid Support Forces, but they have not been paid enough money to retire.
“They are saying that unless something is done by the government, they will continue with gunfire,” she said. “We’ve been to several parts of Khartoum where there’s gunfire and seen people closing shops and have also seen people being robbed by members of the intelligence service.”
She also said the security situation was expected to get worse, adding that the army has raised the alert level.
“It is a significant development,” she said. “People are concerned that [the gunmen] will cause some kind of a chaos.”
Morgan said the army has been deployed to contain the situation.
“There is a heavy exchange of gunfire between the military and the intelligence service so people are concerned that by the end of the day there will be loss of life,” she said.
The Sudanese Professionals Association, the country’s main protest group, called on state agencies to intervene immediately to stop “these irresponsible operations that are causing terror amongst citizens”.
The security service said in a statement, which did not mention the gunfire, that negotiations were taking place to try to resolve the problem.
Meanwhile, authorities closed Khartoum’s airport because of its proximity to the site of unrest.
“Khartoum airport has been closed for five hours until 8pm local time (18:00 GMT) for security reasons,” Abdelhafiz Abdelrahim, the spokesman of the civil aviation authority, told bioreports news agency.