KHARTOUM   -   Sudanese protesters have moved to block an apparent attempt to break up their sit-in outside the defence ministry in Khartoum, where demonstrators have been pushing for a quick transition to civilian rule after Omar al-Bashir was ousted as president, a witness has said.

Protesters said they had joined hands and formed a ring around the sit-in area after troops had gathered on three sides and tractors were preparing to remove stone and metal barricades. The protesters, numbering about 5,000 with more arriving, chanted “freedom, freedom” and “revolution, revolution”, and appealed to the army to protect them.

Earlier, the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) protest group issued an urgent call for people to join the sit-in and block any attempt to disperse it. “We hope that everyone will head immediately to the areas of the sit-in to protect your revolution and your accomplishments,” the SPA said.

The sit-in outside the compound, which also includes the intelligence headquarters and the presidential residence, began on 6 April after more than three months of protests triggered by a deepening economic crisis.

Last Thursday Sudan’s army announced it had removed and detained Bashir after three decades in power and was setting up a transitional military council to run the country.

Since then the heads of the military council and Sudan’s powerful intelligence services have both been replaced, as protesters have continued to call for change. The SPA has demanded the immediate handover of power to a civilian transitional government and the prosecution of former officials.

The military council met political parties on Sunday and urged them to agree on an “independent figure” to be prime minister, an AFP correspondent at the meeting said. “We want to set up a civilian state based on freedom, justice and democracy,” one council member, Lt Gen Yasser al-Ata, told members of several political parties.

A 10-member delegation representing the protesters had delivered a list of demands during talks with the council late on Saturday, according to a statement by the Alliance for Freedom and Change umbrella group. But in a press conference the council’s spokesman did not respond to the protesters’ latest demands.