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Sudan accuses Israel of airstrike on munitions factory

Four planes bombed the Yarmouk arms complex in the capital, Khartoum, killing two, Sudan's information minister says.

October 24, 2012|By Robyn Dixon, Los Angeles Times
  • The Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, burns Tuesday after an airstrike. Sudan said Wednesday that Israel was behind the attack.
The Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, burns Tuesday… (European Pressphoto Agency )

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Sudan on Wednesday accused Israel of launching an airstrike that caused a large explosion at a munitions factory, killing two people, in a residential area of the capital, Khartoum.

Sudan Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said that four planes bombed the Yarmouk complex housing a military arms factory in the south of the capital and that an analysis of rocket debris from the explosion confirmed Israel was behind the attack.

"We think Israel did the bombing," Belal said. "We reserve the right to react at a place and time we choose."

Israeli government and military officials, who have been accused of other airstrikes in Sudan, declined to comment on Sudan's statement.

Analysts said such a strike by Israel would not be surprising given Israel's claims that Sudan is helping to arm Palestinian militants.

The Yarmouk arms factory was believed to be "part of the smuggling trail leading from Iran, Sudan, Egypt into the Sinai and finally into Gaza," said Ehud Yaari, Arab affairs commentator for Israel's Channel 2.

Israel has also raised alarms recently about sophisticated weapons that have been smuggled out of Libya since the collapse of Moammar Kadafi's regime. This month, militants in Gaza for the first time fired antiaircraft missiles at Israeli aircraft. Israelis suspect the weapon and others like it were smuggled from Libya.

Belal said the planes in the Sudan attack used sophisticated technology to evade antiaircraft systems. The Sudanese government would take the matter to the U.N. Security Council, he said.

Residents reported seeing fighter jets launch the attack that caused the blast, journalists said.

"One resident I spoke to said he saw two planes. The first plane had large lights and it was basically guiding the plane behind it. When its light became bright, they heard a rocket that followed and there was a large explosion," journalist Ishmail Kushkush said. "I spoke to another resident who said he saw three planes."

Kushkush said witnesses reported that two people had been killed.

"All said there was a very large explosion. Shrapnel went in all directions. Houses were damaged. One person told me his entire back room collapsed," Kushkush said.

Sudan has accused Israel of other attacks in recent years, including the bombing of a truck convoy allegedly carrying arms in eastern Sudan in 2009. Last year, Sudan accused Israel of an attack on a vehicle in the same area, which killed two people. A similar attack occurred in May, killing one.

"The main purpose is to frustrate our military capabilities and stop any development there and ultimately weaken our national sovereignty," Belal said.

Israel rarely confirms or denies its role in such operations. It has never confirmed or denied involvement in the incidents in 2009, 2011 and May. There has been speculation, however, that the attacks on vehicles were linked to arms smuggling.

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Times staff writer Edmund Sanders in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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