Sudan air strike may have killed 119

A new development in the Sudan airstrike story. A few days ago we highlighted to a piece that showed how confusing the various information on the subject is. Now the BBC is reporting that Sudan's minister of defense says the toll was much higher than originally reported:

An air raid in a Sudanese desert in January killed 119 people travelling in a people-smuggling convoy, the country's defence minister has said.

Abdul-Rahim Hussein told parliament that the attack was still under investigation, state media reported.

Fifty-six smugglers died as well as 63 people wanting to emigrate, he said.

Israel - battling Hamas in Gaza at the time of the attack - was suspected of being behind air raid, but has never explicitly confirmed any involvement.

. . .

In his report, Gen Hussein said there were up to 1,000 people in the convoy involved in "a smuggling process at the border with Egypt", Suna reported.

Among the convoy were people from Ethiopia and Somalia, the defence minister said.

It's hard to tell whether this is the truth or an attempt to make Israel (which presumably carried out the strike) look bad by blaming it for the deaths of migrant refugees. And it still does not tell us anything about this convoy and what it was smuggling, although the suggestion that over 1,000 people were there makes the secret cargo for Hamas theory look slightly weird. Update: Worth reading this analysis in conjunction with the above.
Read More

Piecing together the Sudan airstrike story

Guy Gabriel at the Palestine Chronicle has done a review of the publicly available info on the alleged Sudan airstrikes of last January, a still unsolved mystery that we were very cautious in handling when it was first revealed. Here's a quick breakdown of what is supposed to have happened:
Piecing together information from various reports, this is a composite picture of what happened: The attackers were American, Israeli, or of unidentified origin, using perhaps gunships, F15s, F16s, or Hermes 450 drones and Eitan UAVs, taking off from Eritrea, Djibouti or possibly south of Tel Aviv. In January and/or February 2009, they attacked 1-2 convoys, consisting of 4-23 trucks, 1-3 times. The attacks left 39-800 dead (including some Iranian escorts or Revolutionary Guards), and there were between 0-50 survivors, which possibly included an Ethiopian mechanic. The attack left 18 craters, ranging in size from 160-430 metres (!). In addition, 0-1 ship[s] were sunk. The convoy[s] were smuggling either goods, people, G4s and Kalashnikovs, or 120 tonnes of arms and explosives, including anti-tank rockets and Fajir rockets with a 25-mile (40-kilometre) range and a 99-pound (45-kilogram) warhead.
Not exactly illuminating. He concludes:
It is quite possible that any one of these reports may be accurate, or perhaps none of them - or any combination of truth or falsehood in between. However, what is notable is that although we simply do not know the details of what happened, that has not stopped the story reaching the mainstream media with certainty that Israel's long arm stopped a conspiracy involving Iran, Hamas, and smuggled weapons bound for Gaza. Obscure or fringe sources were deemed passable in piecing together this story that in other situations would be rejected for being too unreliable. This was nearly the case here, relegated at first to blogs, but the significance of the ideal version of the story was too good to miss out on, and so graduated to mainstream Sunday newspapers and weekly news magazines.
Previous discussion of this on Arabist.net:
Read More