Sudan’s military ousted President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday, ending his 30 years in power in response to escalating popular protests. The defence minister announced military rule for two years, imposing an emergency clampdown that risks inflaming protesters who have demanded civilian democratic change. After the military’s announcement, protest organisers vowed to continue their rallies until a civilian transitional government is formed. Tens of thousands of protesters were massed at a sit-in they have been holding outside the military’s headquarters in Khartoum. The military’s coup brought an end to a president who came to power in a coup of his own in 1989, backed by the military and Islamist hardliners, and who had survived multiple blows that could have brought him down. Over his three decades in power, al-Bashir was forced to allow the secession of South Sudan after years of war, a huge blow to the north’s economy. He became notorious for a brutal crackdown on insurgents in the western Darfur region that made him an international pariah, wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. The United States targeted his government repeatedly with sanctions and air strikes for his support of Islamic militant groups. Throughout, he maintained his swagger, famed for his onstage appearances dancing with his cane before cheering crowds. The protests that erupted in December have been the biggest challenge to his rule. They were initially fuelled by anger over the deteriorating economy but quickly turned to demands for his removal. They gained new momentum last week after Algerian protesters forced president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s resignation. Word of al-Bashir’s removal first emerged in the morning. State television announced that the military would make an “important statement” imminently and the nation should “wait for it”. Two officials high in the military and government said al-Bashir had been ousted. Thousands of protesters marched toward the centre of the capital Khartoum, cheering, singing and dancing in celebration. The announcement finally came hours later in the afternoon when Defence Minister Awad Mohammed Ibn Ouf appeared on state television in military fatigues. He said the military had arrested al-Bashir. “I the defence minister, the head of the Supreme Security Committee, announce the uprooting this regime, seizing its head, after detaining him in a safe place,” he said. He denounced al-Bashir’s government, saying the military and security agencies had long been observing its “bad administration, systemic corruption, absence of justice, the blocked horizon for all people especially the youth. The poor became poorer and the rich became richer. Hope in equality has been lost.” He also said al-Bashir’s heavy-handed security crackdown against protesters had risked cracking the security establishment. Ibn Ouf said a military council decided on by the army, intelligence agencies and security apparatus will rule for two years, after which “free and fair elections” will take place. He also announced the military suspended the constitution, dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency for three months, closed the country’s borders and airspace and imposed a night curfew for a month. Protest organisers have feared the military would impose its control after removing al-Bashir. Earlier in the day, one main organiser, the Sudanese Professionals Association, urged protesters to remain in the streets to press for a civilian transitional government. “We are not leaving. We urge the revolutionaries not to leave the sit-in,” the association said, warning against attempts to “reproduce the old regime”. Sarah Abdel-Jaleel, a spokeswoman for the association, said they will not accept a military coup and insist on an “unconditional stepping down of al-Bashir and his regime”.