‘US Sudan embassy closed shortly after munitions factory explosion’

‘US Sudan embassy closed shortly after munitions factory explosion’

Hundreds chant 'death to Israel' in Khartoum; Sudanese minister says his country has the right to respond

Central Khartoum (photo credit: CC BY, NZ Defence Force, Flickr)
Central Khartoum (photo credit: CC BY, NZ Defence Force, Flickr)

The US embassy to Sudan was reportedly closed on Wednesday, shortly after an explosion at a weapons facility south of the capital Khartoum.

Al-Hayat reported on Thursday that the embassy, which stopped providing services in September after being attacked by rioters protesting the anti-Islamic film “Innocence of Muslims,” was completely closed following the alleged bombing, which was blamed by the Sudanese government on Israel.

The article quoted Sudanese sources, who said that the US knew Israel was behind the attack and closed its embassy, fearing retaliation for the alleged bombing.

On Wednesday night, hundreds of people gathered in the Sudanese capital holding anti-Israel signs after Khartoum said Jerusalem had been behind the attack, which killed two people.

Some 300 demonstrators rallying against Israel chanted slogans, including “Death to Israel” and “Remove Israel from the map,” according to a report on the Iranian Press TV.

Minister of Information Ahmed Belal Osman told reporters on Wednesday that four aircraft hit the Yarmouk Complex, setting off a huge blast that rocked the capital before dawn.

“Four planes coming from the east bombed the Yarmouk industrial complex,” Belal said. “They used sophisticated technology.” He didn’t elaborate further.

Belal also referred to a 2009 attack on an arms convoy that killed dozens in the Red Sea province in the east of the country. The government then blamed the attack on Israel, which believes Sudan is a conduit for arms shipments through Egypt to Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers. Israel does not comment officially on the issue.

Belal said the complex produces conventional weapons. He said his country has the right to respond.

In a letter to the UN Security Council, Sudan’s representative called the attack a “blatant violation” of the UN charter and called for condemnation from the world body.

Belal also said a technical team is inspecting remains of the missiles used in the attack which he said suggest Israel is behind the bombing. He didn’t provide any evidence.

Israeli officials neither confirmed or denied Israel’s involvement.

At the same news conference, military spokesman Sawarmy Khaled said two people were killed and another was seriously injured in the blast. Earlier, officials said some people suffered from smoke inhalation.

In New York, Sudan’s UN Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman called on the UN Security Council to condemn the attack, accusing Israel of meddling in its internal affairs and providing support to rebel groups.

The Cairo-based Arab League said it is closely following the fallout from the attack. Deputy Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed bin Helli said Sudanese officials are in touch with the League and have provided initial reports about Israel’s alleged involvement. “We are working to verify them,” he said.

Sudanese activists on social media websites criticized the government for placing a factory with such large quantities of ammunition in a residential area.

Sudan has been engaged in various armed conflicts for many years.

Sudan’s government has been at war with rebels in the western region of Darfur and with its neighbors in South Sudan, which broke away to become Africa’s newest country in 2011. Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Sudan was a major hub for al-Qaeda militants and remains a transit for weapon smugglers and African migrant traffickers.

The US imposed economic, trade and financial sanctions against Sudan in 1997, citing the Sudanese government’s support for terrorism, including its sheltering of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Khartoum the mid-1990s.

In 1998, American cruise missiles bombed a Khartoum pharmaceutical factory suspected of links to al-Qaeda. That followed the terror group’s bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

The Yarmouk weapons complex was built in the 1996. Sudan prided itself in having a way to produce its own ammunition and weapons despite international sanctions.

Yarmouk is one of two known state-owned weapons manufacturing facilities in the Sudanese capital.

Jonah Leff of the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey told The Associated Press that the location of the two factories is “certainly a hazard” to Khartoum’s population if the weapons inside are not properly maintained or secured.

A September report from the Small Arms Survey said there was evidence from weapons packaging found in Darfur and in South Kordofan that arms and ammunition from China are exported to Yarmouk and then transported to the two embattled regions.

Leff said that although the Small Arms Survey has documented Sudanese military stocks of Iranian weapons and ammunition, there is no evidence that Iranian weapons are being assembled or manufactured in the two Khartoum factories.

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