Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 17:15 UK

Sudan leader denies Darfur crimes


President Omar Al-Bashir speaks to the BBC's HARDTalk

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has denied that his armed forces have targeted civilians in Darfur, in an exclusive interview with the BBC.

"I challenge anybody to bring me evidence that proves the Sudanese armed forces attacked and killed citizens in Darfur," he told HARDtalk.

In his first TV interview since being indicted on war crimes charges, he dismissed talk of crimes as propaganda.

Mr Bashir was indicted by the war crimes court on 4 March.

He has poured scorn on the International Criminal Court charges, which were the first issued by The Hague-based body against a sitting president.

'Fighting rebels'

In the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, Mr Bashir said: "What has been reported to have happened in Darfur did not actually happen at all.

Sudanese refugees
We have never fought against our citizens, we have not killed our citizens
President Omar al-Bashir

"What happened in Darfur was an insurgency. The state has the responsibility to fight the rebels."

He added: "We have never fought against our citizens, we have not killed our citizens."

The ICC has accused President Bashir of two counts of war crimes - intentionally directing attacks on civilians and pillage - as well as five counts of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture.

Mr Bashir was asked about claims the Sudanese armed forces had used excessive force.

The joint United Nations-African Union (Unamid) peacekeeping force has raised concerns over an attack on a refugee camp in Kalma, South Darfur, in August 2008, when 38 people died.

'Human shields'

The Sudanese leader said government forces had been searching for arms used to shoot down a Unamid plane from inside the camp when rebels opened fire.

"Our citizens were used as human shields by the rebels," he said. "Therefore, it was only natural for our forces to carry out their operational duties.


"The shooting started from inside the camp, the soldiers returned fire and yes there were casualties. The issue was resolved with the citizens concerned."

The UN estimates 300,000 people have died in Darfur's six-year conflict and millions more have been displaced.

But President Bashir said figures for casualties in Darfur were "less than one tenth of what has been reported".

"Any talk about crimes committed inside Darfur is a hostile and organised media propaganda to tarnish the reputation of the government and is a part of the declared war against our government," he added.

Mr Bashir has denounced the ICC warrant as part of a neo-colonial Western plot to take over Sudan.

The Darfur conflict began in early 2003, when the government and Arab militias launched a campaign against black-African rebel groups.

You can see the full interview with President Omar al-Bashir on the BBC News channel in the UK on 13 May at 2330 BST and 15 Friday 0430 BST.

International viewers can see it on BBC World News on 14 May at 0330, 0830, 1430, 2030 and 2230 GMT.

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