Satellite images suggest air raid on Sudan weapons factory

Six 16-metre craters identified at weapons factory in Khartoum.

CAIRO // Satellite images of the aftermath of an explosion at a Sudanese weapons factory this past week suggest the site was hit in an air raid, a United States monitoring group said yesterday.

The Sudanese government has accused Israel of bombing its Yarmouk military complex in Khartoum, killing two people and leaving the factory in ruins.

The images released by the Satellite Sentinel Project on Saturday showed six 16-metre wide craters near the epicentre of Wednesday's explosion at the compound.

Military experts consulted by the project found the craters to be "consistent with large impact craters created by air-delivered munitions", said Jonathan Hutson, the Satellite Sentinel Project spokesman.

The target may have been around 40 shipping containers seen at the site in earlier images. The group said the craters centre on the area where the containers had been stacked. It did not comment on the allegations of Israeli involvement or who might be behind the strikes.

Jonah Leff, who monitors Sudan for the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey and was not connected to the project, reviewed the images on Saturday and agreed with the group's assessment.

Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied striking the site. Instead, they accused Sudan of playing a role in an Iranian-backed network of arms shipments to Hamas and Hizbollah. Israel believes Sudan is a key transit point in the circuitous route that weapons take to the Islamic militant groups in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon.

Sudan was a major hub for Al Qaeda militants and remains a favoured transit area for weapon smugglers and African migrant traffickers.

Israeli officials believe arms that originate in the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas go through Sudan before crossing Egypt's lawless Sinai desert and into Gaza through underground tunnels.

The Satellite Sentinel Project is a partnership between the Enough Project, a Washington-based anti-genocide advocacy group and DigitalGlobe, which operates three commercial satellites and provides geospatial analysis.

The project was founded last year with support from the actor George Clooney, and in the past has used satellite images to monitor the destruction of villages by Sudanese troops in the country's war zones.

Opened in 1996, Yarmouk is one of two known state-owned weapons manufacturing plants in the Sudanese capital. Sudan prided itself in having a way to produce its own ammunition and weapons despite United Nations and US sanctions.

Yarmouk is located in a densely populated area of the city about 11 kilometres south-west of the Khartoum International Airport.

Wednesday's blast sent exploding ammunition flying into homes adjacent to the factory, causing panic among residents. Sudanese officials said some people suffered from smoke inhalation.

Published: October 29, 2012 04:00 AM

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