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Explosions and fire reported at Sudan arms factory

24 October 2012

Witnesses in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, reported explosions and a large conflagration at the site of a military factory on October 24. Initial media reports said the site of the incident was the Yarmouk ammunition factory. The reason for the explosions is not clear. A number of people were taken to hospital with smoke inhalation.

The fire at the Yarmouk arms plant is now thought to have been caused by an Israeli attack
The fire at the Yarmouk arms plant is now thought to have been caused by an Israeli attack

"There was a very loud explosion and you can see now a huge fire," one resident told the Reuters news agency.

"The authorities are controlling a fire in the Yarmouk military manufacturing facility," the state-linked Sudanese Media Centre said, according to the AFP news agency.

One of the agency's reporters said there were two or three fires across a wide area, with dense smoke and intermittent flashes of white light.

Abdul Rahman al-Khider Rahman, the governor of Khartoum state, told local TV an explosion had occurred at midnight.

"There are losses in the building and the authorities are investigating the cause. A preliminary investigation says the explosion happened in a store room," he said.

Mr Rahman said some people had been taken to hospitals suffering smoke inhalation but otherwise there were no casualties.

A September report from the Small Arms Survey, a Swiss-based independent research project, said evidence from weapons packaging suggests that Chinese-origin weapons and ammunition are exported to the state-owned Yarmouk Industrial Complex.

From there they have subsequently moved into Sudan's far-west Darfur region which has been plagued by conflict for almost a decade, the report said.

Small Arms Survey said it was not clear whether Yarmouk served simply as a recipient "or whether they repackage or even assemble the Chinese-made weapons."

Update: 25/10/2012

The Sudan government now claims that the explosions at the arms factory were caused by an Israeli air attack.

"Four military planes attacked the Yarmouk plant ... We believe that Israel is behind it," Sudanese Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman told reporters, adding that the planes appeared to approach the site from the east.

"Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel," he said, adding that two citizens had been killed and the plant had been partially destroyed. Another person was seriously injured, he said.

Pan-Arab newspaper Al-Hayat also reported on Thursday that the United States closed its embassy due to protests outside the mission in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum on October 23, coinciding with the airstrike that hit the weapons plant.

According to Al-Hayat, there was speculation in Khartoum that the closing of the US embassy indicated the US had prior knowledge of the attack.

According to al-Rakoba, Osman also said Sudan has evidence from examining the weapons used in the attack that it was carried out by Israel, and that they also disabled radars at Khartoum airport before the air strike.

The governor of Khartoum state initially had ruled out any "external" cause for the blast but officials later showed journalists a video from the vast site. A huge crater could be seen next to two destroyed buildings and what appeared to be a rocket lying on the ground.

Sudan's UN Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman called on the UN Security Council to condemn the attack "because it is a blatant violation of the concept of peace and security."

Several residents living near the factory told Reuters they had heard planes or missiles before there was a huge explosion.

"I heard a sound like a plane or missile and then the sky was lit up and a huge explosion occurred," a resident who declined to be identified said. "There was a big fire and several subsequent explosions."

Israel News says Sudan is used as an arms smuggling route to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via neighboring Egypt. 

The Israeli government has refused to comment on Sudan's accusations.

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