KHARTOUM   -    The protest movement in Sudan has won a series of fresh victories, with the country’s powerful military moving to replace the controversial transitional leader and spy chief following street rallies demanding officials linked to the former regime stand down.

Salih Ghosh, who led a sweeping crackdown against demonstrators over recent months, resigned on Saturday, a communique from the new military-led transitional council said.

Less than 24 hours earlier, thousands of jubilant protesters celebrated in the streets after the defence minister, Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf, who was named de facto leader after overthrowing Omar al-Bashir on Thursday, announced he was stepping down. He named another, less controversial army general as his successor.

Ghosh has led the feared National Intelligence and Security Service since early last year – his second term in the post. Scores have died and hundreds have been injured by Niss and pro-Bashir paramilitaries in recent months. Thousands were detained, many of whom were tortured.

The twin resignations may not be enough to satisfy pro-democracy campaigners, who have called for civilian government and widespread reforms. Observers nonetheless describe the move by the army as a positive sign of sincerity in statements that senior officers wanted a “dialogue” with protesters.

But campaigners said on Saturday they opposed any attempt to “reproduce the Bashir regime” and any decisions of any new authority that did not meet the aspirations of the Sudanese people for “freedom, democracy and peace”.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which has organised much of the protest and formulated demands, said it wanted “the transfer of power to a civilian transitional government in which the army participates but [does] not rule and lead”.

Protests erupted on 19 December in the eastern city of Atbara after a government decision to triple the price of bread, but quickly evolved into nationwide demonstrations against Bashir’s rule.

The situation escalated dramatically a week ago, when thousands of demonstrators began a sit-in outside the defence ministry compound in central Khartoum. Five days later, the army stepped in to remove Bashir, who had been in power since 1989.

Auf said he would be replaced by Gen Abdel Fattah Burhan, the general inspector of the armed forces, as head of the transitional council, which has said it will rule the country for two years until elections.

“I am confident he will steer the ship to safe shores,” he said of Burhan, adding that he was stepping aside to “preserve unity” of the armed forces.

Organisations leading the protesters have said the demonstrations will continue and thousands remained at their makeshift encampment in central Khartoum overnight from Friday to Saturday, in defiance of an overnight curfew imposed by the military.

An association of Sudanese doctors said 26 people had died and more than 150 had been injured – 15 critically – since the sit-in began. Five of the dead were soldiers who were killed protecting the demonstrators during attacks by pro-Bashir militias.