Sudan accuses Israel of bombing, threatens to retaliate

Sudan yesterday accused Israel of carrying out air strikes against a military factory that killed two people in south Khartoum overnight, and threatened to retaliate.

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KHARTOUM // Sudan yesterday accused Israel of carrying out air strikes against a military factory that killed two people in south Khartoum overnight, and threatened to retaliate.

"We think Israel did the bombing," information minister Ahmed Bilal Osman told a news conference.

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

The foreign ministry of Israel, which has long accused Khartoum of serving as a base for militants from the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, refused to comment.

Mr Osman said four aircraft were involved in the attack, which occurred at about midnight on Tuesday at the Yarmouk military manufacturing facility in the south of the Sudanese capital.

He said evidence pointing to Israel was found among remnants of the explosives.

Residents of the area told Agence France-Presse earlier that an aircraft or missile flew over the facility shortly before it exploded and burst into flames.

An AFP reporter several kilometres away saw two or three fires flaring across a wide area, with heavy smoke and intermittent flashes of white light bursting above the state-owned factory.

"I heard a sound like a plane in the sky, but I didn't see any light from a plane. Then I heard two explosions, and fire erupted in the compound," said a resident who asked to be identified only as Faize.

A woman living south of the compound also reported two initial blasts.

"I saw a plane coming from east to west and I heard explosions and there was a short length of time between the first one and the second one," she said, asking not to be named.

"Then I saw fire and our neighbour's house was hit by shrapnel, causing minor damage. The windows of my own house rattled after the second explosion."

The governor of Khartoum state, Abdul Rahman Al Khider, told official media that some people were hospitalised because of smoke inhalation but he gave no numbers.

The army's spokesman, Sawarmi Khaled Saad, was quoted by the state SUNA news agency as saying the fire occurred at an ammunition facility in the Yarmouk complex, spreading to a neighbouring area of grass and trees.

In 1998 Human Rights Watch said a coalition of Sudanese opposition groups had alleged that Sudan stored chemical weapons for Iraq at the Yarmouk facility but government officials denied the charges.

In August of that year US cruise missiles struck the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in North Khartoum, which the United States said was linked to chemical weapons production.

Evidence for that claim later proved questionable.

A source familiar with the factory said its main compound and storage area had not been damaged by the explosions or fire.

The fires appeared to be extinguished by 3.30am, more than three hours after they began.

There have been other mysterious blasts in Sudan - and allegations of Israeli involvement.

One person was killed when a car exploded on the country's Red Sea coast in May, about a year after Sudan blamed Israel for an air strike on a vehicle in the same area. Witnesses to the May incident said they heard a big blast that set the car ablaze and left two holes in the ground.

In January 2009, foreign aircraft struck a truck convoy reportedly laden with weapons in eastern Sudan.

A report in September from the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research project, said evidence from weapons packaging suggested that Chinese-origin arms and ammunition are exported to the Yarmouk facility.

Small Arms Survey said it was not clear whether Yarmouk served simply as a recipient "or whether they repackage or even assemble the Chinese-made weapons".

Khartoum is seeking the removal of US sanctions imposed in 1997 over support for international terrorism, its human rights record and other concerns.