Defiant Sudanese leader expels 13 relief agencies

NAIROBI, Kenya – A day after an international court called for his arrest on war-crimes charges, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on Thursday took his anger out on Western humanitarian agencies, expelling 13 major relief groups working in Darfur and vowing to defy the arrest order.

Appearing before thousands of cheering supporters in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, a defiant al-Bashir dismissed the International Criminal Court’s charges that he masterminded atrocities against civilians in Darfur. He called the accusations part of a Western plot to carry out regime change in the huge, oil-rich African nation.

While the 65-year-old president strutted and waved a walking stick to thrill the crowd, 13 leading aid groups that provide water, health care, education and other basic services in Darfur’s overcrowded refugee camps were preparing to cease operations and leave the country under orders from Sudanese authorities. Sudanese officials accused the groups of cooperating with court investigators, charges the agencies denied.

The expulsion orders were a drastic show of force by a government in crisis.

The humanitarian operation in Darfur is the largest and most complex in the world, and relief officials warned of devastating consequences for many of the 4.2 million people in Darfur who depend on outside agencies for services that the central government doesn’t provide.

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