“KHARTOUM, March 26 (Reuters) – Unidentified aircraft attacked a convoy of suspected arms smugglers as it drove through Sudan toward Egypt in January, killing almost everyone in the convoy, two senior Sudanese politicians said on Thursday.
The politicians, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue, told Reuters the strike took place in a remote area in east Sudan but did not say who carried it out.
Media reports in Egypt and the United States have suggested U.S. or Israeli aircraft may have carried out the strike. Sudan’s foreign minister Deng Alor told reporters in Cairo on Wednesday he had no information on any attack.
Any public confirmation of a foreign attack would have a major impact in Sudan, where relations with the West are already tense following the International Criminal Court’s decision this month to issue an arrest warrant for President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on charges of Darfur war crimes.
Egyptian independent newspaper Al-Shorouk quoted ‘knowledgeable Sudanese sources’ this week as saying aircraft from the United States were involved in the strike, which it said killed 39 people.
The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum on Thursday declined to comment. Sudan remains on a U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, but the State Department has said that Sudan is cooperating with efforts against militant groups.
U.S.-based CBS News, however, reported on its website on Wednesday that its security correspondent had been briefed that Israeli aircraft had carried out an attack in eastern Sudan, targeting an arms delivery to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas in Gaza.
A senior Israeli defence official on Thursday described the report as nonsense.
Update: Haaretz provides analysis, taking as assumption that it was an Israeli strike. Watch out for this issue being raised in a few hours at the State Dept. Daily Press Briefing – although I suspect we’ll hear more about this from off-the-record sources in the next few days.