The Sudanese armed forces announced Thursday the ousting of President Omar al-Bashir and the beginning of a two-year interim period ruled by the High Council of the Armed Forces, Minister of Defense Awad bin Auf announced in a televised statement.

Auf, a military intelligence chief and vice president to al-Bashir, will lead the military council.

“The security council apologises to the Sudanese people for the killing and violence that took place,” Auf said in his statement.

He added that al-Bashir was removed from power and is currently “held in a safe place”.

The military statement also announced the annulment of the current constitution and the dissolving of the cabinet. A three-month state of emergency was announced in addition to a curfew from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Everyone will be tried by law, peacefulness is our method in revolution and change.

Earlier Thursday, amid reports of the stepping down of al-Bashir, the Sudanese Professional Association (SPA), which has been spearheading the protests, stressed its commitment to demanding a civilian transitional government.

“Everyone will be tried by law, peacefulness is our method in revolution and change,” said in a statement, adding the only way forward is through “the handing over the authority to a civilian national transitional government formed on prioritizing freedom and change as the people agreed.”

Sudanese people have been celebrating in anticipation of the news Thursday, with thousands flocking to the presidential palace and military headquarters in Khartoum, where protesters have been holding a sit-in for days.

Authorities announced earlier the release of all political prisoners who were arrested in the anti-government protests, according to the Sudan News Agency (SUNA).

The demonstrations in Sudan started in December to protest the rising cost of living and quickly escalated to calls to the end the 30-year rule of President al-Bashir.

Twenty-two protesters and five soldiers have been killed since the sit-in began Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Last Saturday, tens of thousands of protesters marched to army headquarters to mark the 34th anniversary of the overthrow of former President Jaafar Nimeiri, who was removed in a bloodless coup after a popular uprising. A few years later, al-Bashir allied with Islamist hardliners and rose to power in a 1989 coup.

Al-Bashir has been wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide against Darfur since 2009. Al-Bashir also hosted Osama bin Laden in Sudan in the ’90s.

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