Did Israel Bomb a Sudanese Ammunition Depot?

A mysterious Oct. 23 bomb blast in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital, sparked allegations of Israeli subterfuge and sabotage

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Stringer / Reuters

Fire engulfs al-Yarmouk ammunition factory in Khartoum, Sudan, on Oct. 24, 2012

Late on Oct. 23, an enormous explosion erupted around a government-run ammunition factory on the outskirts of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Terrified residents in the area reported a blackout, the whizz of a rocket, then a huge blast that sent white sparks into the night sky and matériel flying in all directions. While the first official report suggested it was due to an accidental explosion in a storage room, Khartoum later blamed Israel for launching the attack. “We believe that Israel is behind it,” said Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman, adding that the planes had approached from the east.

The Sudanese government claims that four Israeli strike planes launched the attack, which partially destroyed al-Yarmouk ammunition factory and killed two civilians. “The main purpose is to frustrate our military capabilities and stop any development there and ultimately weaken our national sovereignty,” Osman said, adding that “Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel.” Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Sudanese army (SAF), al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, suggested there could be spies within the SAF as well; the military had had plans to relocate the factory. He also said that Israel had previously voiced its concern about the factory but acted on false information that it was producing heavy weapons.

The strike could be the latest incident of a long-standing clandestine war between Sudan and Israel — spurred by the latter’s desire to thwart the alleged supply of weapons from or via Sudan to Hamas, the Islamist group ensconced in the Gaza Strip. It’s believed that, with a growing number of seaborne arms shipments from Iran, a Hamas ally, being seized and confiscated, Tehran has used Sudan as a staging ground to supply Hamas’ fighters overland.

Still, analysts have voiced skepticism over Khartoum’s latest accusations. “The Sudanese officials’ accounts seem a bit far-fetched,” Richard Cochrane, a Sudan expert at Jane’s Intelligence, tells TIME. “If the aircraft were supposedly radar-evading, then how did they know there were four?” Cochrane also highlights the possibility that it was an accidental explosion in the storage room, as had initially been reported by the Khartoum state governor. “There has been a lot of pressure on the Sudanese regime internally. Military campaigns in the South are not going well, there’s social unrest on the streets, a declining economy,” says Cochrane. “These are times of internal pressure when the regime would be keen to deflect attention outward, and Israel has always been a prime candidate.”

Sudanese political analyst Alhajj Hamad challenges claims that there were four planes that conducted the attack. Instead, Hamad concludes from speaking with military sources that there was only one plane, which was a drone. He also says that his military sources say the air strike did not target the factory but was actually very specific. “It was targeting a drone-ammunition store next to the factory, which in turn affected the factory,” he tells TIME. “As usual, there is an official story and another story.” Fueling rumors of further obfuscation, local reporters say they were prevented from viewing the attack site.

While Sudan’s Information Minister stated that the factory made “traditional weapons,” it appears there might have been something more valuable. According to Israeli military analyst Alon Ben-David, it must have been a considerably high-value target for Israel. “You don’t send four strike fighters 1,900 km to destroy a factory that produces Grad rockets,” Ben-David tells TIME. “It also puts into question whether strike aircraft were actually used.” It would have been a major operation requiring refueling, support aircraft, electronic mission aircraft and rescue support, explains Ben-David. “A lot to just prevent arms smuggling.”

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to comment on Channel 2 News, saying, “I have nothing I can say about the matter.”

If Khartoum’s allegations are correct, this would not be the first time Israel has struck out at Sudan. In 2011, Israel launched an attack on a car in Port Sudan that killed two people. Rumors say one of the people killed was a high-ranking Hamas official. At the time, Ali Karter, Sudan’s Foreign Minister, said Israel launched the attack to ruin Sudan’s chances of being removed from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. It has been placed on the list in 1997 for supporting various terrorist groups and harboring Osama bin Laden during the 1990s. In 2009, Israel was blamed for reported drone attacks on weapons-smuggling convoys in northeastern Sudan. In 2010, Mahmoud Mabhouh, a key Hamas arms smuggler, was assassinated in Dubai. Israel declined to comment on all these incidents.

Sudan appears to be taking this latest attack seriously. Its envoy to the U.N. Security Council, Daffa-Alla Elhag Osman, has said he intends to file an official complaint. And Khartoum has said it’s planning decisive actions against Israeli interests, adding that it now has the right to do so when and how it chooses. Whether or not Sudan has the capability, though, is far less certain. For all the bluster, analysts aren’t expecting much of a retaliation. Although it might have only been an ammunition-storage depot, its attack could mean much more for Tel Aviv. “These kinds of attacks are always an example of one’s abilities,” says Ben-David. “If you go the same distance east, they have demonstrated their capability to reach Tehran at a crucial time.”

17 comments
RockRaccoon
RockRaccoon

@VRWCTexan @TheSoulfulVixen Tom T. You're breaking my heart. Only one factory?

ahmed_d94
ahmed_d94

 @philip.smeeton look man islam isnt pretending peace as you say. islam is peace. am not saying this just because am a proud muslim and am defending for my religion, but you can read about the non-muslims who lived during the caliphate ( the era of Islam's ascendancy from the death of Mohammed -pbuh- until the 13th century, they live in peace with the muslims, they were never criticized, they were so into it that they fought with the muslims trying to prevent the caliphate from falling. ask anyone weather western or European who lives in a arabic country are they ever criticized. i myself had a lotta european and non-muslim friends. our prophet peace be upon him use to check up on his jewish neighbor-and am not just saying this. you can read about it-he always called eissa (jesus) peace be upon him as his brother. in islam you are strictly not allowed to insult or speak bad about any religion. Islam teaches its followers to not lose sight of these teachings even during times of war, when emotions run high and take control of logic and consciousness. So the rules of war in Islam forbid Muslims from destroying the places of worship of their foes. This goes hand in hand with the principle of treating everyone with justice even during the war. "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for God, as witness to fair dealings and do not let the hatred of a people lead you to treat them unjustly. Deal with them justly; it is closer to piety." (Quran 5:8) Respect for the dignity of human beings leads Islam to put an end to fighting as soon as the enemy declare peace: "...therefore if they withdraw from you but do not fight you, and (instead) send you (guarantees) of peace, then God has opened no way for you (to wage war against them)." (Quran 4:90)

http://www.soundvision.com/info/christmas/ctreat.asp

now i dont want to even speak about what the isrealian and american governments have done to a lot of countries. and trust me man these people are so good and blocking news from the people of their nations that you will always think that islam is terrorism. in the middle east they block porn and adultry sites. in the western world they block islamic sites. and make ones that  make islam seem as the terrorism religion. if u research it properly u will know that real muslims did nothing they were not forced to do

lapazjim
lapazjim

Well one thing that they don't talk about that much in this article--the electricity went out then they heard the wizz of a rocket,but wait if 4 jets had flown over wouldn't they have heard at least 1.Remember jets are loud and can be heard at long distances.Well then we can figure out that maybe there were no jets and that the possibility is  that the plant had an accidental mishap causing the explosion.

Either way if Israel did it or it was an accident Israel has the right to protect itself.Even if it was a preemptive strike to stop the manufacturing of weapons used against it.

Sudan only had a few people killed.Israel has lost alot of their citizens due to these weapons that are manufactured in Sudan.

What makes one worse than the other??? 

repharim
repharim

i'm pretty sure it was a times journalist that did it, i mean look at the bleeding logic and hardcore proof we have here. Times being neo-nazis as usual. Move along everyone, nothing new here.

philip.smeeton
philip.smeeton

How did Islam get a hold on so many followers? The answer is by force then brainwashing and of course instant death to any that renounce or oppose it. Islam is a perfect system of tyranny. The one thing certain is that it is dynamically opposed to our hard-won Western values and it may well defeat us as values such as equality and tolerance have no defence against intolerance; those that want to live have no defence against suicidal maniacs and any treaties Muslims make are bound to be broken. They are masters of propoganda portraying us as the evil ones and themselves as the victims. Western leaders are hypnotized by it and the electorate choose not to see the growing danger. The devotees of Islam follow it blindly, fanatically, accepting no criticism; they are infected with malice, hate and envy. Like aliens from another planet they profess to come in peace while they thrive and multiply and plot our demise. The only defence we could have is to divorce ourselves from them entirely, but I do not look optimistically to the future, we are already invaded and rendered defenceless. Given the means I like many would fight this insidious evil to the death but we have no leadership and time is not on our side. I will not bow to Islam.

AbuAbuka
AbuAbuka

A question: Is Ali Karter the half-brother of Jimmy ? They look and act very much alike...

harvey_9
harvey_9

@TIME don't know ask google

Khushallll
Khushallll

@TIME @TIMEWorld F-15E Strike Eagle -range of 3000KMs w/ jettisonable fuel tanks.Cannot evade radar, though.Flying below radar-reduced range

campbell_ta
campbell_ta

@RissyCrozay @TIME @TIMEWorld Not so sure, need time to find the incentive

DeanMiah
DeanMiah

@TIME @TIMEWorld if they did whose airspace did they use?

WorldOfBenjamin
WorldOfBenjamin

@TIME @timeworld how come you couldn't report on the 80+ rockets fired at Israel from gaza?

RobinFranke
RobinFranke

Sounds like a practice run for Natanz or Fordow.  Ahmajenidad, sierra tango foxtrot whisky.

MSA
MSA

Lets now connect the dots......Israel is our alley......how come we didnt know anything about this? What is going on here? Will there be a back lash against Americans in the Middle east over this? Are the embassies prepared for this? Isnt anyone asking these questions? Damn the election lets get to the facts

VRWCTexan
VRWCTexan

.@RockRaccoon Israel has been striking weapons convoys coming thru the Sudan (as shipped in by Iran) for a long time.

AbuAbuka
AbuAbuka

@MSA Dear MS, you are actually assuming things, aren't you ? Maybe everything was hushed out in advance and everything was ready. Of course they did not share the plans with you ... Or, maybe, you have forgotten ?

RockRaccoon
RockRaccoon

@VRWCTexan I've read that. One has to do what one has to do.