KHARTOUM, Sudan – The U.S. Embassy in Sudan authorized nonessential staff and family to leave the country, saying Tuesday that protests against the international court's indictment against the Sudanese president increased the danger of anti-Western violence.
The Sudanese government expelled aid groups from Darfur and has accused them of cooperating with the International Criminal Court, which the Sudanese president has described as a new form of colonialism.
The embassy also said it has received information on terrorist threats aimed at American and European interests in Sudan. The embassy gave no details, but it has posted similar messages in recent years.
The United States and the U.N. have sharply criticized Sudan's decision to expel 13 of the largest Darfur aid groups in response to last week's indictment by the ICC against the Sudanese president on war crimes in the war-ravaged western region.
President Omar al-Bashir has rejected the charges, and has threatened to throw out diplomats and peacekeepers. Many fear the court's decision could spark more violence in Darfur.
"Recent protests have featured sharp anti-Western rhetoric. There is a continuing possibility that ongoing protests may encourage violent action against Europeans and Americans," a message posted on the embassy's Web site said.
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The embassy message said nonessential personnel and family members could leave Sudan if they want to, and warned Americans to avoid traveling to Africa's largest country.
The Netherlands-based court accuses al-Bashir of leading a counterinsurgency against Darfur rebels that involved rapes, killings and other atrocities against civilians. Up to 300,000 people have died and 2.7 million driven from their homes in the conflict since 2003, according to the U.N.
A Sudanese newspaper with close ties to the government published a statement Tuesday from several hard-line Islamist groups and Arab militia in Darfur, sanctioning attacks against the court prosecutor and Darfur rebel leaders.
A U.N.-African Union peacekeeper remained in serious condition Tuesday after half a dozen gunmen opened fire on a group of soldiers in Darfur, said U.N.-AU mission spokesman Noureddine Mezni. The ambush in western Darfur was the first reported violence against peacekeepers since the arrest warrant was issued March 4.
Also Tuesday, Sudan's State Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Ahmed Haroun said it was "premature" to talk about any gaps left by the expelled aid groups. The comments from Haroun, who was also indicted by the court on war crimes in Darfur in 2007, come a day after the U.N. said it would try to fill life-threatening gaps but its agencies and other organizations don't have the resources to fully replace them.
Many countries in Africa and the Middle East rallied to Sudan's side and criticized the timing of the arrest warrant. Qatar's prime minister said Tuesday the Sudanese president would be invited to an Arab summit later this month. On Monday, the chairman of the African Union Commission said the arrest warrant jeopardizes peace efforts in Darfur.
In the Netherlands, the ICC's outgoing president Tuesday rejected criticism of the timing of the arrest warrant, saying that the court cannot take political issues into account when prosecuting perpetrators of war crimes.
Philippe Kirsch declined to speculate on the next step in the case but said the U.N. Security Council would likely have to get involved if the warrant is not executed.
The court has no police force and relies on U.N. member states to carry out its will.