Al Jazeera & Global Spin & YNet News & The New York Times – 2011-04-07 02:17:35
Deaths in Port Sudan Air Strike
(April 6, 2011) — An unidentified “foreign” plane has bombed a car in the Sudanese city of Port Sudan, killing two people, officials have said.
“A plane bombed a small car which was coming from Port Sudan airport to the town … There were two people in the car and both were killed. The vehicle was completely destroyed,” Mohammed Tahir, the speaker of the Red Sea state parliament, told the AFP news agency on Tuesday.
The plane flew in from the direction of the Red Sea, destroyed the vehicle at about 10:00pm (19:00 GMT), and returned in the direction from which it came, Tahir said. The Sudanese Media Centre, a news agency reportedly linked to Sudan’s state security apparatus, said the army responded with missiles that the plane managed to evade.
The centre “confirmed it was a foreign plane” but did not say where the plane came from or where it went and did not identify the two dead people, who were in the car when it was hit. A police official suggested a missile had been fired from the sea.
A witness told Reuters news agency that there was heavy presence of security forces at the scene, about 20km from Port Sudan, the capital of Red Sea State, 660km northeast of capital Khartoum. “They are preventing anyone from getting close. I can see one burnt-out car,” the witness said.
Previous ‘Israeli’ Attack
A source at Port Sudan said three loud explosions had been heard. “We went outside to see what was happening and witnesses told us they saw two helicopters which looked liked Apaches flying past,” the source said.
In January 2009, a convoy of suspected arms smugglers was hit by unidentified aircraft, also in Red Sea State. That attack was reportedly carried out by Israel — to stop weapons bound for Gaza. At least 40 people were reportedly killed in the incident, which was disclosed only two months after it occurred. State media said the death toll was 119. A member of Sudan’s parliament quoted by the media centre after Tuesday’s attack, Mustafa Mundir, denied that weapons are transported in the area.
The United States maintains a “counterterrorism” base in nearby Djibouti, which has been active against al-Qaeda suspects on both sides of the Red Sea, according to AFP. The Palestinian Hamas movement has also reportedly maintained a “base-in-exile” in Sudan, and Israeli officials have expressed concern about suspected arms smuggling through the country.
Were the Israelis Behind the
‘Mystery’ Air Strike in Sudan?
Karl Vick / Global Spin
(April 6, 2011) — About ten hours before a warplane roared down the Red Sea, crossed into Sudanese airspace and let fly a missile at a sedan, killing both of the people inside, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Gilad offered a piece of advice about secret military actions to audience of diplomats and journalists in a Jerusalem hotel.
“Never boast,” Gilad said. “Be humble. Be modest. Do it, what you have to do. Don’t talk.”
The topic was Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and what Israel might do military to impede them. As director general of political-military affairs for Israel’s defense ministry, Gilad may be the person in Israel in the best position to answer, but he demurred on the grounds that saying things in public tended to impede the ability to do them. So it is that when asked about the Stuxnet worm that wreaked havoc with Iran’s centrifuges at the Natanz nuclear facility, or the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists on their way to the office, Israeli officials limit themselves to a knowing smile and a “no comment.”
And indeed the Israel Defense Force had nothing to say on Wednesday about the mysterious air strike just north of Port Sudan late Tuesday evening. But a senior military official privately confirmed the obvious. “It’s not our first time there,” the official told TIME, referring to a January 2009 airstrike that demolished an entire convoy near the Egyptian border, killing dozens. Both attacks took place on the preferred route for smuggling guns, missiles and mortars to the Gaza Strip and Hamas, the militant Islamist group that governs it.
The route begins in Iran, a major sponsor of Hamas, runs by sea around the Arabian Peninsula to Port Sudan, then overland across the vast Sinai Desert. Somewhere along the way, according to a Western official speaking on condition of anonymity, an electronic device was attached to the shipment. Its signal guided the missile into the vehicle as it moved north from the port Tuesday night. News reports quoted witnesses as hearing multiple explosions; secondary blasts would likely be the unidentified munition inside the car.
The Sinai has never been easily policed by Egyptian authorities, and has been even more wide-open since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. (When a hierarchy slackens, the periphery loosens the most.) But Gilad signaled that things are tightening up, saying the military government that succeeded Mubarak is working closely with Israel on Sinai.
“We have intensive dialogue with Egyptian authorities and they are doing their best to rise to the challenges,” he said. Indeed Gilad was downright ebullient about the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, referring admiringly to its “sophisticated use of power” and singling out Field Marshal Mohamad Hussain Tantawi, a close adviser to Mubarak. Israel’s quite public worries about the course Egypt might take after Tahrir Square seemed a thing of the past, at least for now. “I must say I’m very much impressed by the stability of the Supreme Council,” Gilad said. “I think they embody the best of Egypt.”
Sudan may differ. To reach its territory, Israeli aircraft would have needed overflight permission from either Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Both border the Red Sea south of Israel, and neither is a fan of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Long experience with Egyptian meddling predisposes Khartoum to blame Cairo for a great deal, though on Wednesday its foreign minister was naming only Israel.
“This is absolutely an Israeli attack,” Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti told reporters. He found in the air strike evidence of a plot to keep Sudan on the State Department’s list of countries that support terror.
Back in Jerusalem, before any of this had happened, the Israeli defense official offered assurances that Egypt remained at the forefront of the fight against Iran. Never mind that a pair of Iranian warships were permitted to pass through the Suez in the days after Mubarak fell. The message was that his successors have asserted control.
“Always,” the general said, “I’ve found with them a deep understanding of the real nature of Iran.”
— With reporting by Aaron J. Klein
Israeli Official: We Struck in Sudan
Elior Levy / YNet News
(April 6, 2011) — A senior Israeli military official told TIME Magazine Wednesday that the Jewish state was behind a mysterious air strike in Sudan Tuesday that killed two people. “It’s not our first time there,” the official was quoted as saying, apparently referring to the 2009 airstrike that demolished an arms convoy near the border with Egypt.
The Al-Arabiya news channel reported on Wednesday that one of the two men killed in the airstrike on Sudan, which some claim was carried out by Israel, was an Arab national who was responsible for arming Hamas. The network later changed the report to say that police sources confirmed that both men were Sudanese arms dealers. Meanwhile, the Sudanese government said it would file a complaint against Israel with the United Nations Security Council over the strike.
Al-Jazeera also filed its share of conflicted reports on the incident. The Qatari news network first cited an anonymous security source saying that one of the men who were killed was Palestinian, while the other was Iranian. Later, an Al-Jazeera reporter in Sudan said that both of the victims were Sudanese, and that one of them was a notorious arms dealer.
‘Proof that Israel behind Attack’
Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti accused Israel of carrying out the strike. He said in a press conference in Khartoum that his government “has proof Israel carried this attack. We are absolutely certain of it, but we donâ€™t know the reason.” Karti also claimed that Israel is attempting to harm Sudan’s chances of being removed from the United States’ list of terror-sponsoring nations.
According to Sudanese reports, a foreign aircraft entered the African nation’s airspace around 10 pm on Tuesday from the Red Sea. Sudanese forces reportedly fired at the aircraft, chasing it away. Eyewitnesses said they heard loud explosions and saw two helicopters flying by. In January 2009, a convoy of arms smugglers was hit by unidentified aircraft in Sudan’s eastern Red Sea state, a strike that some reports said may have been carried out by Israel to stop weapons bound for Gaza.
Roi Kais and Reuters contributed to this report
Sudan: Israel behind Airstrike
YNet News & News agencies
(April 6, 2011) — Sudan’s Foreign Minister Ali Karti on Wednesday accused Israel of carrying out a strike on a car near Port Sudan that killed two people. In a press conference held in Khartoum, Karti said his government “has proof Israel carried this attack. We are absolutely certain of it, but we donâ€™t know the reason.” The foreign minister added that the two men killed were civilians, whose identities have yet to be verified. Israel, he said, “Has been blaming Sudan for aiding Islamist groups. That is not true. Perhaps Israel wants to justify its actions by making such accusations.”
Sudanese police said a missile struck the car near the port city on Tuesday night. A state government official, however, said the strike was carried out by a “foreign aircraft” that flew in from the Red Sea. According to reports, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor and the IDF Spokespersonâ€™s Unit declined to comment on the accusation.
Khartoum alleges that this is the second mysterious shelling on Sudanese soil: In January 2009, a convoy of arms smugglers was hit by an unidentified aircraft in Sudan’s eastern Red Sea. January’s strike was also attributed to Israel.
According to Sudanese media, a mysterious airstrike took place near the airport in Sudan’s main port city of Port Sudan on Tuesday night. According to Parliament Speaker Ahmed Tahir, an unidentified “foreign plane” flew in from the direction of the Red Sea and struck a car driving in the vicinity of the airport.
Several images of the scene, released by state media Wednesday, show the wreckage of the car in which the two alleged targets were driving. State media reported that the Sudanese military directed anti-aircraft fire at the aircraft and chased it out of Sudanese air space, adding the action “confirmed it was a foreign plane.”
Reuters contributed to this report
US Officials Say Israel Struck in Sudan in 2009
WASHINGTON (March 26, 2009) — Israeli warplanes bombed a convoy of trucks in Sudan in January that was believed to be carrying arms to be smuggled into Gaza, according to American officials. Israeli officials refused to confirm or deny the attack, but intelligence analysts noted that the strike was consistent with other measures Israel had taken to secure its borders. American officials said the airstrike took place as Israel sought to stop the flow of weapons to Gaza during the weeks it was fighting a war with Hamas there.
Two American officials who are privy to classified intelligence assessments said that Iran had been involved in the effort to smuggle weapons to Gaza. They also noted that there had been intelligence reports that an operative with Iranâ€™s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had gone to Sudan to coordinate the effort. But one former official said that the exact provenance of the arms that were being smuggled via Sudan was unclear.
Although the airstrike was carried out two months ago, it was not publicized until Sudanese officials said Thursday that a convoy of trucks in the remote eastern part of Sudan was bombed by what they called â€œAmerican fighters,â€ killing dozens. The strikes were first reported on several Internet-based news sites, including cbsnews.com.
The area where the Sudanese said the attack occurred, near Port Sudan on the Red Sea, is an isolated patch of eastern Sudan near the Egyptian border and a notorious smuggling route, populated mostly by nomads and known as one of the poorest, least developed parts of a very poor, underdeveloped country.
The Sudanese said the reports emerged now because it took time to fully investigate the strike. But an accusation from one government official that the attack was an American act of genocide raised the possibility that the Sudanese were lashing out because the International Criminal Court had issued a warrant for the arrest of their president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, on war-crimes charges in the conflict in Darfur.
The official, Rabie A. Atti, a government spokesman, also gave a death toll in the attack that was higher than the 39 reported in other secondhand accounts. [Sudanese state media later put the number of people killed at 119 â€“ EAW.] Mr. Rabie said by telephone from Khartoum, the capital, that â€œmore than 100 peopleâ€ had been killed in the air raid. He said the trucks that were bombed were not carrying weapons. â€œIâ€™ve heard this allegation, but itâ€™s not true,â€ he said. â€œIt was a genocide, committed by US forces.â€
When asked how he knew the forces were American, Mr. Rabie said: â€œWe donâ€™t differentiate between the US and Israel. They are all one.â€
Vince Crawley, a spokesman for the United States Africa Command, said American forces had not bombed Sudan. â€œThe US military has not conducted any airstrikes, fired any missiles or undertaken any combat operations in or around Sudan since October 2008, when US Africa Command formally became responsible for US military action in Africa,â€ he said.
The American officials who described the Israeli role declined to be identified because they were discussing classified information and were not authorized to speak for the Obama administration. One American military official said the January strike was one of a series of Israeli attacks against arms shipments bound for Gaza.
The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, did not comment specifically on the reported bombing. But he said in a speech on Thursday in Israel that when it came to security, â€œwe operate wherever it is possible to harm terror infrastructure, near and far.â€
Shlomo Brom, a retired general at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said it would be â€œvery logicalâ€ to assume that Israel would have wanted to bomb a weapons convoy in Sudan. â€œIt fits exactly with the pattern of how Israel operates,â€ he said.
Israeli officials say that most of the weapons smuggled to Gaza flow through a labyrinth of tunnels running beneath the Egypt-Gaza border.
Israel has blamed Iran for supplying many of these weapons, especially the rockets that Hamas has fired at Israeli civilians. Israeli military analysts said that eastern Sudan could have been a little-watched backdoor for Iranian weapons to reach Gaza.
Hossam Zaki, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said: â€œHow do we know these are weapons to be smuggled and destined to go to Gaza through Egypt? These are only intelligence reports.â€ Asked if he had information about the strikes at the time the Sudanese said they had happened, he said, â€œWe had our intelligence as well,â€ and refused to elaborate further.
Israel is no stranger to daring military operations when it concludes its security is threatened. It has a history of attacking enemies far from its territory. Israeli Air Force planes destroyed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981, and in 2007 they destroyed a site in Syria that Israeli and American intelligence analysts said was a partly constructed nuclear reactor. Israel never officially acknowledged that it was responsible for the Syrian strike.
Mr. Rabie, the Sudanese spokesman, implied that his government might have more to say on the episode. He said the government waited two months to go public because â€œwe were doing investigations. â€œWe want to follow the case,â€ he said. â€œAnd the government is still collecting information.â€
Michael R. Gordon reported from Washington, and Jeffrey Gettleman from Nairobi, Kenya. Isabel Kershner contributed reporting from Jerusalem, Eric Schmitt from Washington, and Mona el-Naggar from Cairo.
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