Bashir denies targeting civilians in Darfur -BBC


Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, facing an international arrest warrant for suspected war crimes, has denied targeting civilians in Darfur and challenged the courts to back up the allegations.

Bashir told the BBC he had a responsibility to send troops to fight a rebel uprising in Darfur and that any other leader would have done the same, Reuters adds.

“I challenge anybody to bring me evidence that proves the Sudanese armed forces attacked and killed citizens in Darfur,” the BBC quoted him as saying on its website.

“We have never fought against our citizens, we have not killed our citizens. They came to the government for protection.”

The International Criminal Court in the Netherlands has issued a warrant against Bashir for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur, western Sudan.

The court’s chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo told Reuters on Monday that he was confident the court’s judges will soon charge Bashir with genocide.

The six-year conflict in Darfur led to up to 300 000 deaths and the displacement of about 270 000 people, the UN says.

Bashir has already dismissed the allegations against him as a Western conspiracy to seize oil, gas and other natural resources from Sudan, Africa‘s largest country.

“I assume full responsibility for what has happened to my citizens,” Bashir said in a brief excerpt of the interview shown on BBC television on Tuesday. The full interview is due to be broadcast on Thursday.

“However, what has been reported to have happened in Darfur did not actually take place. What happened in Darfur was an insurgency.

“The state has the responsibility to fight the rebels. Any state in the world and any responsible government would fight those who raise arms against it.”

Bashir is the first sitting president to be charged by the Hague-based court since it was set up in 2002. He responded by ordering 10 foreign aid agencies to leave Sudan and then embarked on a series of visits to countries that opposed the ICC indictment, including Qatar, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The conflict in Darfur began when mostly non-Arab rebels took up arms against the government in 2003. They accused Khartoum of discriminating against non-Arab farmers in Darfur in favour of Arab tribes.