A senior Sudanese rebel leader who returned to Khartoum to take part in talks with the military was detained Wednesday, a spokesperson for his movement said, following an army crackdown on protests.
Yasir Arman, deputy chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), was seized from the house where he was staying in Khartoum by armed men who arrived in pick-up trucks and surrounded the building, spokesperson Mubarak Ardol said.
“They took him without clarifying to us the place [they would take him to] and said they were from the National Intelligence and Security Service,” Ardol said.
The spokesperson charged that the armed men “beat” Arman and his assistant and destroyed surveillance cameras outside the house.
Arman returned to Khartoum on May 26 to take part in talks after the ousting of president Omar al-Bashir in April following months of mass protests against his authoritarian rule.
The SPLM-N’s armed wing had battled Bashir’s forces in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states since 2011.
The U.K. ambassador in Khartoum condemned the arrest.
“This is outrageous. We need confidence building now. Not further escalation,” Irfan Siddiq tweeted, calling for his release.
Arman’s detention came after a doctors committee close to the protesters said 60 people had been killed in a two-day crackdown on protesters by security forces.
Sudan’s ruling Transitional Military Council, which ousted Bashir following the protests, dispersed a weeks-long sit-in outside army headquarters by forces on Monday.
Following Bashir’s removal, the SPLM-N had ordered a three-month suspension of hostilities in Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
Both states lie on the border with South Sudan which seceded from the north in 2011.
Fighting resumed in both states within months of the south’s independence, and the brutal conflict has since claimed thousands of lives.
The SPLM-N was the northern arm of what is now the ruling party in the south and has allied itself with the protest movement that led to Bashir’s overthrow.
South Sudan achieved independence from Sudan in 2011, but the states of Blue Nile and South Kordofan – which both have large ethnic minority populations who fought alongside the south – were left north of the border.
The SPLM-N, which had been part of South Sudan President Salva Kiir’s SPLM, launched an insurgency against Khartoum in the two states that same year.
Juba and Khartoum have traded allegations of supporting each other’s rebels on their territory, charges which both countries deny.
Successive rounds of peace talks between Khartoum and the rebels have ended without a deal.
The SPLM-N also has a loose alliance with rebels in Darfur, who have waged an older conflict since 2003 which the United Nations estimates has killed 300,000 people and displaced more than 2.5 million.
With reporting from AFP