KHARTOUM (AFP) - The United Nations was pulling non-essential staff from Darfur on Tuesday as protesters rallied behind Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir over allegations he masterminded a campaign of genocide in the war-torn region. Fears of a violent backlash have mounted since the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor on Monday sought an arrest warrant against Beshir on 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur. The African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission said it would be flying out non-essential staff to Ethiopia and Uganda, despite assurances from Sudan to protect peacekeepers and humanitarian workers in the country. The first two minibuses carrying staff left UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher around midday (0900 GMT) en route to the local airport where they were expected to fly to Entebbe in Uganda, witnesses told AFP. "It's not an evacuation. We're temporarily relocating staff, some non-essential staff," said Josephine Guerrero, spokeswoman for the UN-led peacekeeping mission, following months of deteriorating security in Darfur. Sudan criticised the evacuations as unnecessary. "This is very unfortunate " that they are doing this despite our assurances many times that they are going to be protected, to enable them to do their daily business," foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadiq told AFP. Khartoum braced for angry protests against the ICC move, although the number who took to the streets by Tuesday lunchtime numbered only a few hundred. One rally led by an Islamic student movement marched from Khartoum University to the UNDP office and British embassy shouting "We are the army of Muhammad and "by our blood we protect our president." Around 400 tribesmen belonging to the ruling National Congress Party were organising a separate rally outside the presidential palace. ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said Beshir "personally instructed" his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups in the western Sudanese region, accusing him of murder, torture, attacks on civilians and pillaging. He has requested a warrant on 10 counts, three of them for genocide, in what would be the first such move by the court against a sitting head of state. Three ICC judges will examine the application to decide whether there are sufficient grounds for issuing a warrant, which could take several months. Sudan, which is under a UN-imposed obligation to execute any such warrants, has refused to surrender two suspects named last year for war crimes in Darfur, one of them a sitting cabinet minister.