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Sudan accuses Israel of fatal airstrike on car

KHARTOUM, Sudan – Agence France-Presse | 4/6/2011 12:00:00 AM |

Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti accused Israel of an airstrike a day earlier on a car on Sudan's Red Sea coast that killed two people.

Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti accused Israel on Wednesday of an airstrike a day earlier on a car on Sudan's Red Sea coast that killed two people.

Karti's charge came as a number of Israeli newspapers spoke of the same thing, though there has yet been no comment from the Israeli media. "From yesterday, we have indications that the attack was carried out by Israel. We are absolutely sure of this," Karti told a news conference in Khartoum.

The minister said he did not know the reason for the attack, but that in recent days "there have been allegations from Israel that Sudan is supporting some Islamic groups." "This is not true. When Israel makes these allegations, it is trying to justify what it did yesterday."

In response to a question, Karti said he did not know the identities of the people who had been killed. He said they were just Sudanese citizens traveling from the airport. On Tuesday night, the head of the local state assembly said: "A plane bombed a small car which was coming from Port Sudan airport to the town ... There were two people in the car and both were killed. The vehicle was completely destroyed."

The unidentified plane, which struck at about 10:00 pm (1900 GMT), flew in from the Red Sea, to which it then returned, Mohammed Tahir said by telephone. In a statement on Sudanese radio, a police spokesman confirmed that a missile was fired at a vehicle 15 kilometers south of Sudan's main port city, killing two, and that a team had been sent to investigate. "IDF (the Israeli military) carried out an attack in Sudan" read the front page story in Israel's top-selling Yediot Aharonot. "Planes which approached from the Red Sea assassinated wanted men in Africa," read the strapline.

News of the attack was also carried on the front pages of Israel HaYom, a freesheet considered close to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which billed it as "Liquidation in Sudan." It also appeared as a last-minute bulletin in the left-leaning Haaretz.

Israeli officials have in the past expressed concern about suspected arms smuggling through Sudan, whose government has close ties with Gaza's Hamas rulers. In January 2009, foreign aircraft bombed a convoy of trucks in eastern Sudan, near the Egyptian border.

U.S. and Israeli media reported that the trucks were carrying weapons to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, to supply Palestinian militants during Israel's devastating three-week offensive against the territory. Sudanese officials claimed the convoy had been transporting illegal immigrants to Egypt.

Hamas has close ties with Khartoum and has long maintained a base in Sudan, where the group's exiled chief Khaled Meshaal is a frequent visitor. Speaking at a conference in Khartoum last month, Meshaal hailed the sweeping political changes in Egypt, which he said had given the Palestinian people their lives back, and called for renewed struggle against the Jewish state.

Just a few days later, a private Egyptian TV channel broadcast unconfirmed reports that the Egyptian army had shelled a convoy of vehicles laden with arms near the Sudanese border. The United States maintains a counter-terrorism base in Djibouti which has been active against al-Qaeda suspects on both sides of the Red Sea but its reported strikes against jihadist targets are all said to have involved drones.

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