Sudan blames Israel for Khartoum arms factory blast

BBC's Peter Biles: "It is not the first time the Sudanese have blamed the Israelis for mysterious goings on"

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The Sudanese government says it believes Israel was responsible for explosions at a military factory in the capital Khartoum on Tuesday.

Culture and Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said four Israeli planes attacked the factory and two people were killed. Israel has not commented.

Sudan has blamed Israel for such attacks in the past.

Correspondents say Israel believes weapons are being smuggled through the region to Gaza.

Leaked US State Department documents three years ago suggested that Sudan was secretly supplying Iranian arms to Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

In April 2011, Khartoum held Israel responsible for an air strike that killed two people in a car near the city of Port Sudan. Israel, again, did not comment on the incident.

Analysis

At this stage there is no way of knowing who was responsible for the air attack against the Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum.

While the Sudanese authorities are yet to provide any evidence for their accusation that it was Israel, this is by no means as outlandish as it might sound. For a bitter secret war has been going on for a number of years between Israel and Hamas, with Sudan apparently very much one of the battlegrounds.

US diplomatic cables have revealed alleged arms smuggling networks running through Sudan. In January and February of 2009 there were two mystery air attacks on convoys in the Sudanese desert. More recently, in April last year, there were reports that a senior Hamas figure, thought to be responsible for arranging arms supplies, was killed near Port Sudan.

The Sudanese government said that Israeli attack helicopters had destroyed the car in which two individuals were travelling. Again there is no confirmation of any of this and the Israelis are saying nothing.

Israel was also blamed for a strike on a convoy in north-eastern Sudan in 2009, but neither confirmed nor denied involvement.

'Right to react'

In the latest incident fire engulfed the Yarmouk plant and nearby buildings after the explosions, with flames visible over a wide area.

Residents reported seeing aircraft or missiles overhead before a number of explosions.

Speaking to reporters in Khartoum, Sudan's Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said: "We think Israel did the bombing.

"We reserve the right to react at a place and time we choose."

Mr Osman said four radar-evading aircraft that "appeared to come from the east" had attacked the Yarmouk plant.

He said that evidence pointing to Israel had been found among remnants of the explosives and that Sudan's cabinet would hold an urgent meeting at 20:00 (17:00 GMT).

Mr Osman said the factory made "traditional weapons".

"The attack destroyed part of the compound infrastructure, killed two people inside and injured another who is in serious condition," he added.

A spokesman for the Israeli army, Avikhai Adraie, told the BBC's Arabic service that Israel had no comment on the accusation.

Earlier, Sudanese armed forces spokesman Col al-Sawarmi Khalid said civil defence forces had contained the fire and that investigations were under way.

Witnesses reported seeing two or three fires with dense smoke and intermittent flashes of white light.

In 1998 the US launched a missile attack on a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, alleging that it was making materials for chemical weapons.

Sudan denied the allegation, insisting that the US had attacked a factory that manufactured anti-malaria medicines and veterinary products, in defiance of international laws.

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