Fire breaks out at Sudan's old presidential palace

KHARTOUM (AFP) - Thick plumes of smoke billowed into the sky Saturday (March 23) as a fire ripped through Sudan's old presidential palace in the capital Khartoum, the presidency and an AFP journalist reported.

Police cordoned off the streets heading to the palace, built in 1832 on the bank of the Blue Nile, as smoke billowed from the building.

The fire broke out due to a short circuit in some of the offices on the second floor of the palace, the presidency said.

"Most offices in the old republican palace are not in use... the fire has now been brought under control," Mohamed Saleh, an official at the presidency said in a statement.

He did not say whether there were any casualties.

The palace was the official seat of the Sudanese government in the decades following the country's independence in 1956.

But in recent years, President Omar al-Bashir had shifted to a new palace from where he runs his administration's daily affairs.

The 75-year-old leader is facing a wave of angry protests against his iron-fisted rule of three decades, with demonstrators calling on him to step down.