March 9, 2020 / 8:23 AM / a month ago

Sudan's PM survives assassination attempt in Khartoum

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok survived an assassination attempt targeting his convoy as he headed to work on Monday morning in the capital Khartoum, officials said.

Hamdok said he was in “good shape” and that what had happened would be “an additional push to the wheel of change in Sudan”, where he heads a transitional government following the overthrow last year of long-time President Omar al-Bashir.

Hamdok’s government is struggling to manage a severe economic crisis that triggered months of protests against Bashir and continued after his downfall in April.

Three witnesses told Reuters the attack happened near the northern entrance to the Kober bridge, which crosses the Blue Nile from Khartoum North to the city centre, where Hamdok’s office is located.

The convoy appeared to have been targeted from above, they said. State radio said it had been hit by gunfire and a projectile, while state television said it had been targeted by a car bomb.

“I saw the moment of the explosion and the strike, and the strike came from a high building,” one witness said.

Images broadcast on regional TV channels and social media showed a convoy including several damaged white SUVs and a badly damaged car.

Large crowds of onlookers gathered as police tried to secure the site. One member of Hamdok’s entourage suffered light injuries, a government statement said.

An investigation was launched into who was behind the attack, said Information Minister Faisal Salih. “Terrorist attempts and dismantling the old regime will be dealt with decisively. What happened not only targeted the prime minister himself but targeted the Sudanese revolution.”

Security personnel stand near a car damaged after an explosion targeting the motorcade of Sudan's Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok near the Kober Bridge in Khartoum, Sudan March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdalla

The Sudanese security council headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan condemned the attack and said it would seek the help of friendly countries to investigate it and bring suspects to justice, a statement said.

TENSE TRANSITION

Hamdok leads a government of technocrats under a power-sharing agreement between the military and civilian groups for a transitional period due to last until late 2022.

Relations between civilians and the military have been tense, and the government has encountered resistance as it tries to implement economic reforms.

Transitional authorities are also taking steps to disempower Bashir’s supporters, including parts of the security services.

In mid-January, armed security agents linked to Bashir fought soldiers in Khartoum for several hours, after a dispute linked to severance packages.

Soon after Bashir’s overthrow, authorities said they had thwarted several coup attempts by military officers.

“The attempted assassination of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is the new episode in a series of coup plots against the revolution,” Khalid Omer, a leading member of the civilian coalition that backed last year’s uprising, said on Twitter.

Hamdok is an economist and former senior United Nations official who is well connected with the international community.

Slideshow (4 Images)

Britain’s ambassador to Sudan, Irfan Siddiq, called Monday’s incident “a deeply worrying event (that) reaffirmed the fragile nature of this transition and the vital role being played by the PM”.

Thousands of anti-military protesters have held demonstrations in recent weeks to support Hamdok and his government.

After Monday’s attack the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), which spearheaded the anti-Bashir movement, called for further rallies to display unity and support for civilian rule.

Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy in Cairo Writing by Aidan Lewis and Nadine Awadalla Editing by Mark Heinrich

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