Call for holy war as tension mounts in Sudan Sudan

AMID SPIRALLING political tensions in Sudan, the former speaker of parliament has called for a jihad - a holy struggle - against the decision of President Omar al-Bashir to impose a state of emergency.

Mr Bashir dissolved parliament and declared a state of emergency on Sunday, after an escalating power struggle with the parliamentary speaker, Hassan al-Turabi.

After 16 years of civil war pitting Sudan's Muslim north against the mainly Christian and animist south, the country's Muslim rulers are now essentially at war with themselves. The leadership of what was the ruling party, the National Congress, has declared itself to be in opposition, while Mr Bashir has been discussing the idea of creating his own party, the National Salvation Party. Mr Turabi, the President's main political rival, called for thejihad if Mr Bashir refuses to back down.

There are unconfirmed rumours that Mr Turabi and a number of his key supporters have been arrested. Khartoum remains outwardly calm. Shops are open and people are going about their daily business as usual but events are moving quickly. For the moment, Mr Bashir appears to be in full control. The army and other security forces have declared allegiance to him. On the street, too, there is almost unanimous support for his actions. Many Sudanese are deeply distrustful of Mr Turabi and his Islamist agenda.

However, Mr Turabi, who for the past decade has been regarded as the main power behind the government, commands the loyalty of severalmilitias. And yesterday the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Mohamed al-Amin Khalifa, resigned in protest over the imposition of emergency rule. Mr Khalifa is one of the generals who took part in the 1989 coup that brought Mr Bashir to power. Mr Bashir has accused Mr Turabi of attempting to exercise "dual leadership".

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