Sudan's fragile transitional government said it foiled an attempted coup Tuesday involving military officers and civilians linked to the ousted regime of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir.
Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said the coup attempt was the "latest manifestation of the national crisis", referring to deep divisions threatening Sudan's democratic transition.
In a televised speech, he said the plotters had "made extensive preparations, which were showcased in the security breakdown in cities... blocking of national roads, closure of ports and persistent instigation against the civilian government".
Information Minister Hamza Baloul said later the coup attempt had been thwarted.
"Order has been restored and the leaders of the attempted coup, both military and civilian, have been arrested," he said.
The military said "most" of those involved had been apprehended, including 11 officers.
"The army regained control over the sites that perpetrators sought to seize," it said. "Searches and investigations are still ongoing for others involved."
Sudan's army commander and head of the sovereign council Abdel Fattah al-Burhan visited the military camp in south Khartoum where the attempted putsch reportedly began.
"Had it succeeded, the attempt could have had devastating consequences on the unity of the army, security forces, and the country," he said.
State television aired patriotic songs and urged people to "confront" the coup attempt.
In Khartoum, traffic flowed smoothly, including around the army headquarters, where protesters staged a months-long sit-in that eventually led to Bashir's overthrow in a palace coup in 2019.
Anti-coup demonstrations broke out in several cities.
At Port Sudan in the east, protesters raised Sudanese flags and chanted "no to military rule", eyewitness Mohamed Hassan said.
- UN, AU condemnation -
Britain, Norway and the United States voiced "strong support" for Sudan's government.
"The Troika... rejects any attempts to derail or disrupt the Sudanese people's efforts to establish a democratic, peaceful, and prosperous future," they said in a statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the "attempted coup" and called on all parties to "remain committed to the transition" in Sudan, while African Union Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat "strongly" condemned the failed power grab.
US State Department spokesperson Ned Price warned against "anti-democratic actions" in Sudan.
"We condemn any external interference that seeks to sow disinformation and undermine the will of Sudan's people," he said in a statement.
Sudan has a long history of attempted coups, including since Bashir's ouster, but those were small-scale and immediately foiled.
Officials have often blamed Bashir's supporters for them. Bashir, a one-time general, came to power on the back of an Islamist-backed military coup in 1989.
Since his ouster, the ex-president has been jailed in Khartoum awaiting trial.
He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court for his pursuit of a deadly scorched-earth campaign against ethnic minority rebels in Darfur.
In an address to troops on Tuesday, powerful paramilitary commander Mohamed Hamdan Daglo said: "We will not allow a coup to take place.
"We want (a) real democratic transition through free and fair elections, not like in the past," said the commander, widely known as Hemeti.
Under an August 2019 power-sharing deal, Sudan is ruled by a sovereign council of civilian and military representatives that is meant to oversee a transition to full civilian rule.
The deal originally provided for the formation of a legislative assembly during a three-year transition but the assembly has yet to materialise and the transition period was reset when Sudan signed a peace deal with rebel groups last October.
- Faltering transition -
Sudan remains plagued by chronic economic problems as well as deep divisions among those steering the transition.
In June, Hamdok warned of fractures within Sudan's military and security establishment.
"The coup (attempt)... clearly indicates the importance of reform to the military and security sectors," he said.
Civilians and former rebels have stepped up calls for armed groups and paramilitary forces to be merged into the regular army.
In recent months, tensions have reportedly simmered between paramilitaries and army commanders over the integration process.
The transitional government has launched a package of tough economic reforms to qualify for debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, seen by many Sudanese as too harsh.