Sudan accuses Israel of role in arms factory blast
Sudanese minister says four planes appearing to approach from the east attacked Khartoum plant; Jerusalem officials refuse to comment on Israel's possible involvement.
Four military planes attacked an arms factory in Khartoum where there was a huge fire overnight, a Sudanese minister said on Wednesday, blaming Israel for the air strike.
Sudan, which analysts say is used as an arms smuggling route to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via neighboring Egypt, has blamed Israel for such strikes in the past but Israel has always either refused to comment or said it neither admitted nor denied involvement.
On Wednesday, senior officials in Jerusalem also refused to comment on Israel's possible involvement in the incident.
"Four military planes attacked the Yarmouk plant ... We believe that Israel is behind it," Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman told reporters, adding that "the planes had appeared to approach the site from the east."
"Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel," he said, saying two citizens had been killed and that the plant had been partially destroyed.
"We are now certain that this flagrant attack was authorized by the same state of Israel. The main purpose is to frustrate our military capabilities and stop any development there and ultimately weaken our national sovereignty," Osman said.
He said his country has the right to respond and may take the issue to the UN Security Council.
The governor of Khartoum state had initially ruled out any "external" reasons for the blast but officials later showed journalists a video from the site. A huge crater could be seen next to two destroyed buildings and what appeared to be a rocket lying on the ground.
Osman said an analysis of rocket debris and other material on the ground had shown that Israel was behind the attack.
The powerful explosion at the military factory rocked Sudan's capital before dawn Wednesday, sending detonating ammunition flying through the air and causing panic, the official news agency and local media reports said.
Thick black smoke covered the sky over the Yarmouk Military Industrial Complex in southern Khartoum. Sudan's media reported that nearby buildings were damaged by the blast, their roofs blown off and their windows shattered.
Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein and senior officials visited the site of the explosion and held an emergency meeting with top army generals while security forces sealed off the area surrounding the complex and halted traffic.
Khartoum governor Abdul-Rahman Khedr told Sudan News Agency that no one died in the explosion. He said the fire was under control and an investigation into the cause is under way.
In 2009, a convoy carrying weapons in northeastern Sudan was targeted from the air, killing dozens. It was widely believed that Israel carried out the attack on a weapons shipment headed for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel never confirmed or denied that. Sudanese parliamentarians denied that weapons were being transported in the area.
In 1998, Human Rights Watch published a report based on information from Sudanese opposition organizations which said that the Yarmouk plant was used to store chemical weapons for Iraq. Sudan vehemently denied the allegations.
That year, the United States used cruise missiles to bomb a Khartoum pharmaceutical factory suspected of links to al-Qaida in the aftermath of the terror group's bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
Sudan has been a major hub for al-Qaida militants and a transit for weapon smugglers and African migrant traffickers.