Sudan: Strike on alleged Gaza-bound smugglers killed 119
Reports said Israel or U.S. carried out attack on Gaza-bound arms convoy; Sudan: Strike was near Egypt border.
A total of 119 people were killed when unidentified aircraft attacked a convoy of vehicles travelling close to Sudan's border with Egypt in January, state media reported on Monday.
Sudan's defense minister Abdel Rahim Mohamed Hussein made a report to parliament saying the attack on a suspected smuggling convoy was still under investigation, the state Suna news agency said.
According to Suna, Hussein's report said the attack was on a convoy that was made up of 1,000 civilians involved in "a smuggling process at the border with Egypt".
"[The minister] disclosed that 119 people were killed; among them were 56 smugglers and 63 smuggled persons from Ethiopian, Somali and other nationalities," read the report.
Details of the air strike on a remote road in Sudan's eastern Red Sea state first appeared in the international media in March and sparked widespread speculation.
Newspaper reports in Egypt and the United States suggested the attack was aimed at arms smugglers bound for Hamas-ruled Gaza via Sudan and Egypt and was carried out by either the United States or Israel.
Sudanese officials said at the time they suspected Israel, which was then engaged in an offensive in the Gaza Strip, with the declared aim of halting rocket attacks on Israel by Palestinian militants.
The United States denied any involvement while Israeli officials refused to confirm or deny their planes or unmanned drones took part.
At the time, estimates of the death toll from the attack ranged from 30 to 40.
Hussein said the ongoing investigation was being carried out in cooperation with Sudan's ministry of foreign affairs, security agencies and authorities from neighboring countries.
Sudanese officials, speaking on condition on anonymity, said in March it was an open secret arms smugglers used the remote roads running along Sudan's red Sea coast for the smuggling of arms, contraband and refugees.
Sudan remains on a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, but the State Department has said it is cooperating with efforts against militant groups.
A report from the U.S.-based Washington Institute for Near East Policy this year quoted Israeli sources as accusing Iran of helping Hamas smuggle arms into Gaza via Sudan and Egypt.
Egypt says it does its best to stop the smuggling.