Both victims of Port Sudan raid Sudanese: Khartoum
Khartoum (AFP) April 7, 2011
Sudan said on Thursday the two people killed in an air strike on its Red Sea coast were Sudanese, denying reports that a top Hamas militant was the target of the attack claimed to have been carried out by Israel.
"Both people killed in the air strike were Sudanese, and in the area we found only two bodies. There were no foreigners with them," police spokesman Ahmad al-Tuhami told AFP.
The foreign ministry confirmed that the victims were both Sudanese and gave their names as Ahmed Jibril and Issa Hadab, in a statement published by the official SUNA news agency.
On Tuesday evening, an unidentified aircraft flew in from the Red Sea and fired a missile at a car around 15 kilometres (nine miles) south of Port Sudan, killing both driver and passenger and destroying the vehicle.
Foreign Minister Ali Ahmad Karti said on Wednesday he was "absolutely sure" that Israel was behind the attack, and denied that Sudan was harbouring Islamic militant groups.
The Israeli military and foreign ministry have refused to comment on the raid.
However, Israeli intelligence sources told AFP on Thursday that a truck carrying weapons, which was being escorted by the car, had been hit in the strike.
Officials in Khartoum have made no mention of a truck and insisted that both occupants of the car were Sudanese.
Jibril was a businessmen from an Egyptian-Sudanese tribe in Red Sea state who had lived in Egypt for many years before returning to Sudan in 2009, a political activist in the region told AFP.
Hadab, the car's driver, was a fisherman and also from eastern Sudan, the activist added.
The Gaza-based Safa news agency on Thursday cited an MP from the Palestinian territory as saying the strike targeted his nephew, a senior official of the Hamas movement that rules the coastal enclave.
Ismail al-Ashqar told Safa that Abdel Latif al-Ashqar, whom he described as a "big military leader" within the group's armed wing, was present at the time of the attack but survived.
He was "the main target from the air raid but Allah blinded them and saved him," he told the news agency.
Ashqar did not respond to calls to confirm the report, and Hamas officials were not immediately available to comment on the claim.
The Sudanese foreign ministry denied the presence of Hamas members in the destroyed vehicle.
The Palestinian Islamist group has close ties with Khartoum and has long maintained a base in Sudan, where its exiled chief Khaled Meshaal is a frequent visitor.
Israel has previously expressed concern about suspected arms smuggling through Sudan, and Tuesday's attack mirrored a similar strike by foreign aircraft on a truck convoy reportedly laden with weapons in eastern Sudan in January 2009.
The Khartoum government is desperately seeking Sudan's removal from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism, something Washington promised as a reward for allowing January's referendum on southern independence to take place, and for accepting the overwhelming vote for secession.
Karti said on Wednesday that the strike was an attempt by Israel to tarnish Sudan's name and prevent it being removed from the blacklist.
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