Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir comes from a rural and working class background. He was born in 1944 in the town of Hoshe Bannaga, 100 km (80 mi) northeast of Khartoum. He received some of his military training in the USSR, although he later held distinctly anti-Communist views. Bashir served in the Sudanese army, rising to the rank of brigadier. He was the third-ranking paratroop and airborne commander in the civil war between the central government and the southern rebels of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA), led by John Gurang. It is believed that he is a member of a northern Muslim sect that opposed Sadiq al Mahdi's efforts to suspend the imposition of Islamic law.