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Bashir, Omar Hassan Ahmad al- (1944 - )

OmarHassan Ahmad al-Bashir (or Umar Hassan Ahmad el-Bashir) became president ofSudan in 1993 but first gained military power in 1989 during an Islamist-backedcoup. He was born in the northern Sudan village of Hosh Bonnaga in 1944. 

Bashirsmilitary training began in 1960 when at the age of sixteen he joined theSudanese army. Six years later he graduated from the Sudan Military Academylocated near Khartoum.  Bashir was sent forduty in the Egyptian army during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war.  After the war he steadily rose toprominence.  From 1989 to 1993 he servedas the Sudanese minister of defense.

In1989, Bashir led his troops in overthrowing Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi whowas on the verge of signing a peace treaty with the Sudan Peoples LiberationMovement.  The peace treaty would have allowedsouthern Sudan to be controlled by secular laws instead of the Sharia law thatBashir and other Muslim military officers demanded.  After the successful military coup, Bashirwas appointed to lead the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).  As head of the council he dissolved politicalparties and dismissed all other state governing bodies.

In1993, Bashir became president of Sudan and appointed Hasan al-Turabi, a radicalIslamist, as his vice president. Together, Bashir and Turabi made Sharia law the only legal system inSudan.  They also intensified themilitary campaign to defeat the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement in what wascalled the Second Sudanese Civil War, beginning in 1983 and lasting 22 years.

Asthe southern Civil War wound down, Bashir turned his attention to the Darfurregion in western Sudan.  In 2003 hebegan a campaign to remove the indigenous people from the region partly becauseof their earlier support of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement.  Bashir and the government-sponsored militiagroup, Janjaweed, were accused of using rape, murder, and torture againstnon-Arabs in Darfur. During the two-year conflict, an estimated 500,000 peoplewere killed, over 2,000 villages were burned, and 2.5 million of