Thousands demonstrate in Sudan to mark 40 days since deadly crackdown

Sudanese demonstrators chant slogans outside the army headquarters

Sudan's ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC) claims that it foiled an attempted coup d'état in Khartoum on Thursday.

Saturday's marches also put pressure on the ruling military council as it and the Forces for Declaration of Freedom and Change - which represents the protesters - planned to meet to sign a power-sharing agreement. Lt. Gen. Gamal Omar, a member of the military council, said in a statement that at least 16 active and retired military officers were arrested.

The thwarted coup involved a number of retired officers, as well as officers still in service, Jamal Omar Ibrahim, the head of the Transitional Military Council's security committee, said on Sudanese TV.

Last week, the military and FDFC representatives announced that they had reached a power-sharing agreement amid robust African and worldwide pressure.

"The regular forces were able to foil the attempt", he said, but did not say when the attempt was made.

Protest leaders and generals were initially scheduled to hold more talks on the finer details of the blueprint on Saturday, mediators said.

No more details were immediately available.

The military council and a coalition of opposition and protest groups agreed provisionally last week to share power for three years, bringing thousands onto the streets to hail a first step towards ending decades of dictatorship. Both sides say a diplomatic push by the US and its Arab allies was key to ending a weekslong standoff that raised fears of all-out civil war.

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The deal, which also includes an FDFC-appointed cabinet, was meant to end a weekslong political deadlock between the military and protesters since the Khartoum sit-in site was cleared.

David Shinn, former deputy chief of mission at U.S. embassy in Sudan, said that the coup attempt was not "too surprising".

Last month, the head of of the Military Transitional Council, Abdo-alfataah al-Borhan said there have been multiple coup attempts since former president Omar al-Bashir was ousted in April.

"There have been disagreements within the security forces since the beginning of this effort to change the regime in Sudan", he said.

The transition has been a bloody one as pro-democracy supporters camped outside the military headquarters for weeks demanding a civilian-led interim administration were brutally dispersed.

Protest organisers say security forces killed at least 128 people during the dispersal and subsequent crackdown.

But after intense mediation by African Union and Ethiopian mediators a landmark power sharing deal was reached earlier this month that aims to set up a joint civilian-military governing body. An 11th seat is to go to a civilian chosen by both sides.

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