The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant on Thursday for Sudanese Defence Minister Abdel Raheem Muhammad Hussein as part of investigations into atrocities in Darfur.

Hussein is the latest of several senior officials in Sudan to be indicted by the court at The Hague. Among others, it is seeking the arrest of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of orchestrating genocide. All, however, remain at large.

The court said in a statement that there were sufficient grounds to hold Hussein responsible for 20 counts of crimes against humanity, including persecution and rape, and 21 counts of war crimes, including murder and attacks on civilians.

The United Nations has said as many as 300,000 people died in the Darfur conflict. Khartoum puts the death toll at 10,000.

The ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, said in December that Hussein was wanted for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Darfur from August 2003 to March 2004.

As interior minister and special government representative in Darfur, Hussein made essential contributions to a plan of attacking insurgents in the region, coordinating, arming and funding forces, the court said. Hussein's arrest was needed, it said, to guarantee his appearance at trial and to make sure he does not obstruct or endanger the investigations.

Hussein is one of Bashir's closest allies and is leading a campaign against rebels in the south.

(Reporting by Gilbert Kreijger; Editing by Anthony Deutsch and Alastair Macdonald)