Man throws shoe at President of Sudan during public conference

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

File photo of Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, President of Sudan, at Ethiopia.
Image: U.S. Navy.

Witnesses claim that a man threw a shoe at Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan, during a conference at Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. The man, however, missed the President, and was instantaneously arrested by a group of guards.

Throwing shoes is a mark of great disrespect in common Arab culture. Former U.S. President, George W. Bush, was insulted in a similar fashion during a trip to Iraq in 2008. In that case, the shoe thrower was a local journalist.

No reason was immediately available for this attack. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed in western Sudan's Darfur region.

Several witnesses claimed that they had seen the incident. According to Reuters, one witness said: "The man was close to the podium and threw the shoe but it didn't reach him." The man was middle aged, between 40 to 50 years, and was well dressed.

"He seemed calm, even after he was arrested," said another witness.

Bashir's office, however, denied that any such incident had occurred, claiming that an unrecognized man had attempted to send a note to the President. According to them, this man had been arrested. Spokesperson Emad Sidahmed stated: "The man just wanted to give the president a note[...] but was intercepted by the security."

According to witnesses, they were attending a conference for "strategic planning" at Khartoum's Friendship Hall.

Bashir often goes to different parts of Sudan and delivers speeches. He is generally greeted by excited crowds. In early 2003, the non-Arab community revolted in Darfur, accusing Khartoum of neglecting them. While the U.N. put the death toll for this conflict at 300,000, the government claims that the figure was 10,000.

Violence in southern Sudan had also increased and the region had been engaged in a civil war till a 2005 peace deal. The deal promised a referendum, scheduled for 2011, about whether the region should form a separate breakaway republic.