* Move welcomed by rebels, human rights groups (Adds reaction from foreign
ministry, rights group)
By Sara Webb and Alexander Dziadosz
AMSTERDAM/KHARTOUM, Dec 2 (Reuters) - The International Criminal Court (ICC)
prosecutor requested an arrest warrant for Sudan's defence minister on
Friday as part of the court's investigation into atrocities in the Darfur
conflict, a move that Khartoum dismissed as "political".
The ICC has already issued arrest warrants for Sudan's President Omar Hassan
al-Bashir on charges of orchestrating genocide in Darfur, as well as for a
former minister of state for the interior and a militia leader, who all
remain at large.
Bashir has so far been able to travel widely without being arrested, to
nearby Middle Eastern and African allies and as far afield as China.
The United Nations has said as many as 300,000 people died in the Darfur
conflict. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.
Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein is one of several senior
officials that Human Rights Watch had asked the Hague-based war crimes court
to investigate over the conflict.
He is one of Bashir's closest allies and is leading a campaign against
rebels in the southern border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.
The ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said Hussein was wanted for crimes
against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur from August 2003 to
March 2004, and that he was an important link in the chain of command.
"Hussein in 2003 was the minister of interior and the special representative
of president Bashir, giving him all the power to rule Darfur," Moreno-Ocampo
He added that in those positions, Hussein had supervised the police and the
army, and had appointed and supervised Ahmad Haroun, the former minister of
state for the interior.
Haroun, now governor of Sudan's South Kordofan border state, is wanted by
the ICC for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
"The evidence shows that directly and through Mr. Haroun, Mr. Hussein played
a central role in coordinating the crimes, including in recruiting,
mobilising, funding, arming, training and the deployment of the
militia/Janjaweed as part of the government of the Sudan forces, with the
knowledge that these forces would commit the crimes," Moreno-Ocampo said.
As a result, 4 million people were displaced, he added.
John Prendergast, a former U.S. State Department official and co-founder of
Enough Project, a Washington-based anti-genocide group, said the arrest
warrant would help focus responsibility for major war crimes more closely on
the senior figures in the armed forces who he said have consistently
targeted civilians in their military operations.
"President Bashir and Defence Minister Hussein are part of a small cabal
making most of the decisions on war strategy, not just in Darfur but also in
the current hot spots of South Kordofan and Blue Nile," he told Reuters.
"They are responsible for the forcible displacement of literally millions of
Sudanese over the course of the last eight years, and countless others
before that in the North-South war."
Darfur's rebel groups also welcomed the ICC's move.
"This request is a real victory for the Sudanese people ... and for
international justice and the victims of the war in Darfur," said Gibreel
Adam Bilal, spokesman for the Sudanese Revolutionary Front, an alliance of
rebel groups formed last month to topple Bashir's government.
Sudan's foreign ministry said in a statement the prosecutor had timed his
request to coincide with recent Sudanese government military victories over
rebel forces, particularly in the Blue Nile and South Kordofan states.
"We have no doubt that the timing was intended to affect these victories and
raise the rebels' flagging morale," it said.
Rabie Abdelati, senior member of Sudan's ruling National Congress Party,
told Reuters the ICC decision was "ridiculous".
"We think that these accusations and allegations by the ICC are just
Abdelati said he did not expect any changes in the Sudanese government's
foreign or domestic policies because of the new warrant and pointed out that
Bashir had been able to travel with relative ease since the warrant for his
arrest was issued.
The ICC has been frustrated in its efforts to secure Bashir's arrest. It
does not have its own police force and relies on member states to enforce
Bashir denies the charges and refuses to recognise the international court.
He visited the southern African state of Malawi in October for a regional
trade summit, prompting the ICC to demand an explanation from Malawi, given
that it is an ICC member state and therefore obliged to co-operate with the
court. ID:nL5E7LJ3JB] (Additional reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Liza
Jansen, and Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Peter Graff and Andrew Heavens)
MOGADISHU Dec 2 (Reuters) - Fighter jets bombed an Islamist militant base in
southern Somalia on Friday, residents and soldiers said, as neighbouring
Kenya continued its offensive against the rebels.
Kenya, which has carried out air strikes in the past, did not immediately
acknowledge responsibility. Its troops entered Somalia almost two months ago
vowing to wipe out the al Shabaab rebel group it accuses of being behind
attacks on tourists, aid workers and security forces on its soil.
"We heard sounds of the jets and then bombs. We understood later that they
were targeting an al Shabaab base in Ceel Ade village," Ali Keyre Mohamed, a
local resident, told Reuters.
"We don't know the casualties as a result of the bombardment," he said.
A Kenyan military spokesman told Reuters he would investigate the reports.
An African Union peacekeeping force is largely responsible for keeping
Somalia's weak transitional government from falling to al Shabaab in the
capital. The Horn of Africa nation has not had a fully-functioning
government since warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in
Government troops, who are attacking the rebels alongside the Kenyans in
southern Somalia, confirmed the airstrike to Reuters, saying that two jets
had dropped several bombs.
Al Shabaab said it had provoked the airstrikes with a successful attack on a
Kenyan position earlier on Friday.
"They dropped six bombs. Four civilians died and 35 others were injured,"
Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Muscab, an al Shabaab spokesman, told Reuters.
"They took to the jets after we fought them and gave them an unforgettable
lesson early this morning. Our fighters were not there. We are based
Though Kenya's advance on the militants started rapidly, it stalled quickly
with its military blaming mud and heavy rains. Al Shabaab fighters say their
daily hit-and-run raids and ambushes are hampering the campaign. (Reporting
by Mohamed Ahmed and Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Writing by Barry Malone;
Editing by Peter Graff)
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Received on Fri Dec 02 2011 - 16:54:39 EST