Sources in Khartoum say closure indicates US knew Israel was behind strike on arms facility. Top Defense Ministry official: Sudan is a dangerous terrorist state
The US embassy in Khartoum closed its gates on Wednesday, shortly after a weapons facility just south of the Sudanese capital was attacked, the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat reported.
Sudan claims Israel was behind the attack on the ‘Yarmouk’ arms factory. Analysts say Sudan is used as an arms smuggling route to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via neighboring Egypt.
According to Al-Hayat’s report, published Thursday, the American embassy in Khartoum stopped providing consular services in September after it was attacked by rioters who were protesting against the anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims.”
The report said sources in Khartoum speculated that the fact that the embassy closed before Sudan accused Israel of launching the attack indicates that the US knew the Jewish state was behind the strike and feared it would be targeted by angry protesters.
Egypt’s foreign ministry said it opposes any attack that violates Sudan’s sovereignty, and that it will cooperate with the authorities in Khartoum in the investigation into the strike.
Israel refused to comment on Sudan’s accusations.
‘Sudan a terrorist state’
Following the attack, which left two people dead, Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said his country “reserves the right to strike back at Israel.”
Sudan has accused the Jewish state of launching similar attacks in the past.
A top Israeli defense official said Thursday that Sudan is a “dangerous terrorist state,” although Israel has refused to directly comment on the claim it was responsible for the attack.
“Sudan is a dangerous terrorist state. To know exactly what happened (there), it will take some time to understand,” Amos Gilad told Israel’s army radio.
Asked directly whether Israel was involved in the attack, Gilad, who serves as director of policy and political-military affairs at the Defense Ministry, refused to reply directly.
The Israeli air force, he noted, was “one of the most prestigious in the world, a fact which had been proved many times in the past.”
Residents living near the Yarmouk factory told AFP an aircraft or missile had flown over the facility shortly before the plant exploded in flames.
An AFP reporter several kilometers away saw two or three fires flaring across a wide area, with thick smoke and intermittent flashes of white light bursting above the state-owned factory.
Sudan appeals to UN
Sudan took its case to the UN Security Council, where its envoy Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman called on the council to condemn Israel.
“We reject such aggression and expect your esteemed council to condemn this attack because it is a blatant violation of the concept of peace and security” and the UN charter, the ambassador said.
The envoy also accused Israel of arming rebels and helping to transport rebel leaders in Sudan’s Darfur states, and said Israel was “jeopardizing peace and security in the entire region.”
In 1998, Human Rights Watch said a coalition of opposition groups had alleged that Sudan stored chemical weapons for Iraq at the Yarmouk facility. Government officials strenuously denied the charge at the time.
In August of that year, US cruise missiles struck the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in North Khartoum, which Washington alleged was linked to chemical weapons production. Evidence for that claim later proved questionable.
The sprawling Yarmouk facility is surrounded by barbed wire and set back about two kilometers (one mile) from the main road, so signs of damage were not visible later Wednesday when an AFP reporter visited.
But state-linked media said 65 houses in the area had been “affected.”
The Yarmouk factory made “traditional weapons”, Information Minister Osman said.
“The attack destroyed part of the compound infrastructure, killed two people inside and injured another who is in serious condition,” he said.
There have been other mysterious blasts in Sudan – and allegations of Israeli involvement.
In April last year, Sudan said it had irrefutable evidence that Israeli attack helicopters carried out a missile and machine-gun strike on a car south of Port Sudan.
Last year’s attack mirrored a similar strike by foreign aircraft on a truck convoy reportedly laden with weapons in eastern Sudan in January 2009.
Khartoum is seeking the removal of US sanctions imposed in 1997 over its alleged support for international terrorism, its human rights record and other concerns.
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