UPDATE 2-Sudan accuses Israel of air strike on arms factory

Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:30am EDT

* Analysts say Sudan is used to smuggle arms to Hamas

* Sudan minister declines to comment on Hamas issue

By Ulf Laessing and Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM, Oct 24 (Reuters) - Sudan on Wednesday accused Israel of carrying out an air strike on a large arms factory in Khartoum, its capital, that killed two people, but Israel's defence and foreign ministry declined to comment.

Sudan, which analysts say is used as an arms smuggling route to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip via neighbouring Egypt, has blamed Israel for such strikes in the past but Israel has always either refused to comment or said it neither admitted or denied involvement.

A huge fire broke out late on Tuesday at the Yarmouk arms factory in the south of Khartoum which was rocked by several explosions, witnesses said. Firefighters needed more than two hours to extinguish the fire at Sudan's main factory for ammunition and small arms.

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

"Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel," he said, saying two citizens had been killed and that the plant had been partially destroyed.

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

Osman said an analysis of rocket debris and other material on the ground had shown that Israel was behind the attack.

In May, Sudan's government said one person had been killed after a car exploded in the eastern city of Port Sudan. It said the explosion resembled a blast last year it had blamed on an Israeli missile strike.

Israel declined to comment on the May incident or the 2011 blast, which killed two people and neither admitted nor denied involvement in a similar incident in eastern Sudan in 2009.

The information minister declined to say whether any weapons from Yarmouk had ended up in the Gaza strip, saying that only "traditional weapons in line with international law" were being produced there.

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