KHARTOUM (AFP) - Sudan on Thursday said it arrested 13 people including the former head of the country’s powerful intelligence service for an alleged plot to sabotage national security.

A witness saw armoured vehicles moving in the streets of the capital before daybreak, as state-linked media first reported that the “plot” had been averted.

Sudan has experienced seven coups or attempted coups in its 56-year history but senior ruling party official Rabbie Abdelatti Ebaid told AFP: “I don’t think this is a coup”.

Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told reporters the most prominent figure held was retired general Salah Gosh, longtime chief of the national intelligence service.

President Omar al-Bashir replaced Gosh with Gosh’s number two, General Mohamed Atta al-Moula, in August 2009.

Gosh then became presidential security adviser until he was sacked early last year. He had been pushing for dialogue with the political opposition.

Also detained were security services General Adil Al-Tayeb and Brigadier Mohammed Ibrahim of the Sudanese Armed Forces, Osman said.

Ibrahim was deputy commander of an operation earlier this year to retake Sudan’s Heglig oil fields after a brief occupation by South Sudan.

Osman said civilians were also detained in connection with the plot which “targeted the stability of the state and some leaders of the state”.