Sudan appeared to suffer an attempted coup d’etat last week, possibly motivated by what some observers say is the failing health and increasing political isolation of President Omar al Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup. What follows is a list of key personalities involved and the biographical information known about them, as presented in international and local media. The list includes some very senior figures. The reported involvement of both top military commanders and Islamists – two major components of the coalition that originally brought Bashir to power – is bad news for the regime. That does not necessarily mean that Bashir’s fall is imminent, but it does point to a steady erosion of the regime’s cohesion.
Reported Military Involvement
VOA writes that “a number of military and intelligence officers [are] suspected of involvement in the purported plot.” At the center of the coverage is Salah Abdallah “Gosh,” who was arrested along with twelve other persons on November 22. According to AP,
Gosh was Sudan’s intelligence chief for 10 years before being promoted to security adviser in 2009. Once a member of the president’s inner circle, Gosh was sacked as adviser in April 2011 for becoming critical of the regime.
AP names two other individuals:
- Maj. Gen. Adil Al-Tayeb “of military intelligence”
- Brig. Gen. Mohammed Ibrahim, “a field commander with the Sudanese Armed Forces [SAF].”
The Sudan Tribune, which says that the entire story is “steeped in confusion,” adds a few other (possible) names of the arrested:
- Major General Kamal Abdel-Ma’Rouf, “the army commander who led the ‘liberation’ of Heglig oil area after it was briefly occupied by South Sudan in April this year.” An SAF commander also reportedly denied that Abdel-Ma’rouf was among the arrested.
- Lieutenant General Mohammed Ibrahim Abdel Galil, “a veteran SAF officer who served in the war against South Sudan for 12 years…He used to be close to President Al-Bashir and served as head of his security for six years.” Note: This is likely the same General Mohammed Ibrahim that AP mentions.
- Brigadier General Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Ouf.
- “Well placed sources later told Sudan Tribune that former presidential adviser and head of NCP bloc in parliament Ghazi Salah al-Deen Al-Attabani was summoned for questioning by [the National Intelligence and Security Services, NISS] on his possible role in the plot but was later released.”
- The Sudan Tribune writes that there have even been denials of Gosh’s involvement.
A separate Sudan Tribune article names two other military commanders:
Other uncorroborated reports named Brigadier General Fath Al-Raheem Abdulla who headed the joint Sudanese-Chadian border forces and former head of Sudan’s armoured corps Brigadier General Sideeg Fadl.
Reported Islamist Involvement
Islamists were reportedly connected to the coup in two ways: first, through dissent that surfaced at the recent conference of the Islamic Movement; and second, through arrests of members of an Islamist sect comprising regime-allied fighters but now in a position of dissent. Time calls the conference, and the way dissenters found their path to reform blocked there, the “catalyst” for the coup.
On the militia, the Sudan Tribune writes:
Multiple security and military sources told Sudan Tribune that the NISS arrested around 100 pro-government Islamist elements who belong to a group widely known as “Al-Sae’ohoon” who formed the core of special forces fighting South Sudan rebels during the civil war since Bashir came to power in  in a bloodless military coup backed by the National Islamist Front (NIF).
Al-Sae’ohoon has been vocal recently over reform demands and expressed bitterness that the NCP leadership has softened stance on Islamic principles and gave too many concessions to South Sudan in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), while allowing for army to suffer military setbacks.
“Al Sa’ihun” would be a cleaner transcription from the Arabic. “The wanderers/travelers in the cause of Allah” may be a provisional translation (see Q 9:112). Al Jazeera (Arabic) reports on the movement’s relationship to the regime, writing of “deep disagreements” that appeared at the Islamic Movement’s conference between al Sa’ihun and the Movement’s leadership. Al Jazeera quotes from a letter al Sa’ihun sent to Bashir asking for the release of their imprisoned comrades, stressing how these men have served “the Revolution…from its beginning until Heglig.” The letter affirms loyalty to Bashir while criticizing his defense minister Abd al Rahman Muhammad Hussein.
As Time says, “Those detained overnight on Thursday were not only obvious foes of Bashir.” The pattern of arrests indicates that some core supporters of the regime have broken with it, or are threatening to do so. The combination of military defections and Islamist dissent (and of course there is overlap between military and Islamist ranks) poses a major problem for a regime that has relied on these constituencies as pillars of its support.