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A Sudanese man looks at damage to his home.
Abd Raouf/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 10/26/2012
JERUSALEM--Senior Israeli officials accused Sudan on Thursday of playing a key role in an Iranian-backed network of arms shipments to hostile Arab militant groups across the Middle East, a day after a mysterious explosion rocked a weapons factory near the North African country's capital.
The tough words were likely to add to Sudanese suspicions that an Israeli airstrike was behind the blast. Israel has both the motive and means to carry out such an airstrike, and Sudan has accused Israel in the past of operating on its territory.
Israel considers Iran to be a grave threat, citing Iranian calls for Israel's destruction, suspicions that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb, and Iran's support for militant groups on Israel's southern and northern borders. Israeli officials have long contended that Sudan is a central player in Iranian efforts to funnel weapons to Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
Sudan claimed Wednesday that Israeli airstrikes caused an explosion and fire at a military factory south of the capital, Khartoum, killing two people. It said four aircraft hit the Yarmouk complex, setting off a huge blast that rocked the capital before dawn.
"They used sophisticated technology," Sudan's information minister, Ahmed Belal Osman, said without elaborating. There was no word on the identities of the two people who were killed.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to comment on the incident at a news conference with the visiting Italian premier, Mario Monti.
But Netanyahu's vice premier, Moshe Yaalon, said Israel had "nothing to cry about."
Speaking to Israel Radio, Yaalon described Sudan as an important base for both Iranian and al-Qaida militants to carry out mayhem.
"It's used as a base to disseminate terror, in Africa and in our direction too," he said. "There's no doubt that there is an axis of weapons from Iran via Sudan that reaches us, and not just us. It shows Iran continues to be a rogue state stirring up not a few conflicts in the region."
Sudan has been engaged in various armed conflicts for many years. Its government has been at war with rebels in the western region of Darfur and with its neighbors in South Sudan.