The International Criminal Court said on Thursday it has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan's defense minister for crimes against the civilian population in Darfur.
"The ICC issues a warrant of arrest for the Sudanese Defense Minister Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein," The Hague-based court said in a statement.
Hussein, 60, is the sixth person sought by the ICC or before the court for crimes committed in the war-torn African region. These include Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
The court's chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said when he asked in December for the warrant that it would cover crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur from August 2003 to March 2004.
Hussein, who was interior minister from 2001 to 2005 and also Bashir's special representative for Darfur from 2003 to 2004, is wanted for allegedly coordinating attacks against civilians in villages in west Darfur.
"The evidence allowed the office of the prosecutor to conclude thatHussein is one of those who bears the greatest criminal responsibility," Moreno-Ocampo's office said in December.
The minister, accused of being "an indirect co-perpetrator," faces 41 counts of 13 different types of crimes, including murder, rape, pillaging, forcible transfer and persecution.
The request follows warrants issued in February 2007 for Hussein's deputy and Darfur security chief Ahmad Harun and Janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, both wanted on 22 counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes for directing attacks against Darfur's civilians.
Villages were surrounded, bombed by the Sudanese air force, and then attacked by a combined force of Sudanese troops and Janjaweed militia.
"The evidence shows that this was a state policy supervised by Hussein to ensure the coordination of attacks against civilians," the prosecutor said in December.
He is being charged because of his "overall coordination of national, state and local security entities" and because of his "recruitment, arming and funding of the police forces and the militia" which carried out atrocities, the court said.
The ICC, in line with a UN Security Council resolution, has been investigating the crimes since 2005.
The court said in a statement that Hussein's arrest "appears to be necessary to ensure his appearance at trial and to ensure that he will not obstruct or endanger the investigations."
The war in Darfur between non-Arab rebels and the Arab-dominated central government erupted in 2003 and has left 300,000 dead and 2.7 million displaced people, according to the UN. The Sudanese government speaks of 10,000 dead.
Bashir refuses to recognize the ICC and has refused to turn over any of those wanted by the court.
Two Darfur rebel leaders, Abdallah Banda and Saleh Jerbo, have also been indicted by the ICC because of their alleged part in a 2007 attack on a peace-keeping mission in Haskanita which left 12 dead.
They are currently free awaiting their trial for war crimes.
The ICC was created through the adoption of its founding statute at a Rome conference in July 1998, and started operating in The Hague in 2002.
The ICC is the world's only independent, permanent tribunal with the jurisdiction to try genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
All cases opened by the court so far relate to crimes committed in Africa.