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LATEST from a 2nd insider: there is now a meeting underway at the Military Command HQ between spy chief Gosh, RSF/Janjaweed leader Hemidti, Defence minister & current VP Awad Ibn Auf & head of the police, discussing who will lead transitional High Council of Armed Forces.

After hours of anticipation following news that Mr Al Bashir "stepped down", Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed ibn Auf - who was appointed Vice President two months ago - announced on state television that he will head a military transitional government for the next two years.

Mr Bashir's exact whereabouts are not known.

This time, the protests, combined with the economic downturn, proved to be Al-Bashir's undoing.

Thousands of people flocked to an anti-government protest outside the defense ministry on Thursday, while huge crowds took to the streets in central Khartoum, dancing and shouting anti-Bashir slogans. AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said it was not an appropriate response to the challenges facing the country and the aspirations of its people.

Aside from the fact that they are all hard-working, extremely well educated and successful, the other thing they have in common is that they - or their families - all fled Sudan as a result of the 1985 overthrow of the Numairi regime, which was inspired by Islamist leader Hassan Al-Turabi, who for long was Al-Bashir's religious backer.

Sudan's main protest group rejected the military take over and called for demonstrations to continue.

Sudan's intelligence service said it was freeing all political prisoners.

The downfall of Mr al-Bashir follows the toppling this month of Algerian strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika, also following mass protests after three decades in power.

Names of Mr Bashir's possible successors that have been circulating include the defence minister, an ex-military intelligence chief, also an Islamist, and former army chief of staff Emad al-Din Adawi.

"Only a credible and inclusive political process can meet the aspirations of the Sudanese people and lead to the political and economic reforms the country needs", the bloc's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said.

The UN Security Council is to discuss the situation in a closed-door meeting on Friday called by the US, France, Britain, Germany, Belgium and Poland, diplomats said.

The military council also said it was declaring a ceasefire across the country, including in war-torn Darfur.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov called for calm in Sudan and expressed hope that "whatever the outcome, Russian-Sudanese relations" will be a priority for Khartoum.

Rights group Amnesty International said Bashir should now be handed over to the ICC so that "victims of these unspeakable crimes can see that justice is done".

Ibn Auf announced Bashir's ouster on state TV Thursday.

President Omar al-Bashir has maintained a tight clasp on the country's governance for almost three decades, having taken office in 1989. And he paid a surprise visit last December to Damascus, Syria, which has been shunned by other Arab countries because of the civil war there. Tired after a long civil war and genocide claims, which resulted in the partition of the country into north and south, Sudan, with a population of almost 40 million, attracts the attention of worldwide and regional powers.

Another civil conflict has been taking place in the western region of Darfur.

Mr Ibn Auf has also been accused of complicity in genocide, as a 2007 US Treasury sanctions notice detailed his "role in fomenting violence and human rights abuses in Darfur".

Despite the arrest warrant Bashir defied the court by visiting several ICC member states. However, his last victory was marred by a boycott by the main opposition parties.

The indictment increased his worldwide isolation but didn't prevent him from traveling.


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