Strike on Sudan arms factory points to Iran threat to Israel

Sudan’s longtime ties to Iran — and the two nations’ roles in arming Islamic militants — have come under scrutiny in the wake of an explosion at a Khartoum weapons factory, blamed on an Israeli airstrike, and the dockings of two Iranian warships at a Sudanese port.

Sudanese officials have accused Israel of bombing the Yarmouk military complex Oct. 24. Satellite images of the site suggest that it was hit in an airstrike, according to the Satellite Sentinel Project, a U.S. monitoring group.

Last week, two Iranian warships arrived at Port Sudan. Sudanese and Iranian officials say the ships are on a routine visit.

Israeli officials have neither confirmed nor denied bombing the arms factory Oct. 24. A spokeswoman at the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment.

Israeli officials have accused Sudan of supporting an Iranian-backed network to smuggle arms to Islamic terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, respectively.

Iran is suspected to have munitions factories in Sudan. Sudanese officials deny any Iranian connection to the Yarmouk arms factory; however, the Iranian reaction to the incident could provide a clue.

“Within hours of the explosions, Iran dispatched military advisers to consult with the government of Sudan about the explosions at the arms plant,” said Jonathan Hutson, a spokesman for the Satellite Sentinel Project.

Suspicious containers

The target at Yarmouk may have been the 40 shipping containers that satellite images show were stacked at the site days before the explosion.

Israeli officials have said in the past that the arms are smuggled from Iran’s port of Bandar Abbas to Sudan, north into Egypt and onward through the Sinai Peninsula to militants in the Gaza Strip.

U.S. officials have not come to a similar conclusion about Sudanese compliance.

“I don’t think we know enough about the extent to which the Sudanese government is complicit in assisting these smugglers,” said a former U.S. official who spoke on background.

“The Israelis feel that they have made a direct connection between weapons from Sudan to weapons in the hands of militants in that area,” he added.

TheSatellite Sentinel Project said in its report on the Yarmouk incident that the impact craters were “consistent with craters created by air-delivered munitions.”

The report, based on eyewitness accounts and satellite imagery, concluded that “the sky was ‘red from fireballs,’ and that three fighter jets were ‘flying fast around southern Khartoum, to the northwest and northeast,’ as a fourth, larger plane flew to the northeast at a much higher altitude.”

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About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen

Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.

Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.

 

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