Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has stepped down under pressure from the military, which has promised an "important statement" and is meeting to form a transitional ruling council, Reuters and The Associated Press report, citing senior government officials and regional TV reports. Al-Bashir's fate and whereabouts are currently unknown, but critics who have been protesting his rule since December have gathered in the streets of Khartoum, the capital, flashing victory signs and chanting "the regime has fallen!"
State radio is playing patriotic music and military marches and state TV has ceased broadcasting. Al-Bashir, a former paratrooper and international pariah wanted by the International Criminal Court for the genocide in Darfur, seized power in a 1989 bloodless coup, toppling the civilian government elected after the military ousted the previous leader in 1985. Protests against al-Bashir's rule have been ongoing since Dec. 19, sparked by a government plan to raise bread prices. Peter Weber