Sudan accuses Israel over Port Sudan air strike

The two victims of the air strike have not yet been named

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Sudan has accused Israel of carrying out an air strike that killed two people in a car near the city of Port Sudan on Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti said one man was Sudanese, but the identity of the other passenger was unknown.

There has been no comment from Israel. But correspondents say Israel believes weapons are being smuggled through the region to Gaza.

Mr Karti said the air strike was an attempt to damage Sudan's reputation.

It was intended to disrupt the process of removing Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, he added.

Washington this year initiated the process to remove Sudan from that list after a peaceful January referendum in which the country's south voted to secede.

Shadowy war

The car was hit about 15km (nine miles) south of Port Sudan on Tuesday.

Analysis

Reports of the incident are contradictory and much remains speculation.

Nonetheless it looks as though this attack could be one more reminder of the shadowy war that is being waged along Sudan's Red Sea coast. The intelligence-gathering is constant. Engagements though are few and far between.

The struggle pits the Israeli military against well-organised arms smugglers seeking to get weaponry into the Gaza Strip.

Of course Israel is not the only country potentially responsible for the missile attack. The US too on occasion has fired missiles at alleged terror targets in Sudan.

But this attack against individuals who were clearly considered specific targets suggests a complex intelligence-driven operation. It could well have countering arms-smuggling as its goal.

There is confusion as to whether the car was hit by a plane, helicopters or a missile fired from outside Sudan.

Mr Karti said one of the victims was an innocent civilian and efforts were being made to discover the identity of the second man.

"The attack was carried out by Israel. We are absolutely sure of this," Mr Karti was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

So far no-one has claimed to have carried out the attack.

"We heard three loud explosions," a source at Port Sudan airport told Reuters news agency. "Eyewitnesses told us they saw two helicopters which looked like Apaches flying past."

The car had been travelling into the city from the airport, one Sudanese official said.

Gaza connection?

In 2009, the Sudanese authorities said a convoy of people smugglers was hit by unidentified aircraft in Sudan's eastern Red Sea state.

There was speculation at the time that the strike may have been carried out by Israel to stop weapons bound for Gaza.

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The then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, appeared to give credence to the idea that Israel was involved in that attack, saying: "We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure - in close places and in places further away."

Israel has not commented on the latest incident.

The BBC's James Copnall in Sudan says Hamas, the militant Palestinian group that controls the Gaza Strip, is on good terms with Khartoum.

There has been an uneasy peace in eastern Sudan for several years, following one of Sudan's many civil wars.

But the region is very underdeveloped, even by Sudanese standards, and there are fears about increased illegal activity there, our correspondent says.

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