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Sudan says Israeli jets bombed arms factory


A picture made available on Oct. 24, 2012 shows a fire following an explosion at Yarmouk military factory in Khartoum, Sudan. The fire has been contained, but it is still unclear what triggered the explosion.

Sudan on Wednesday blamed Israel for a huge explosion and fire at an arms factory in Khartoum that killed two people. Israel's defense minister declined to comment.

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

Asked by Israel's Channel Two News about Sudan's accusations, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "There is nothing I can say about this subject."

Similarly, U.S. officials who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity, said, "We have no comment. We can’t help you on this.”

Some Pentagon officials suggested that the explosion could have been accidental and said there were “conflicting reports” about its cause.

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

The powerful explosion at the Yarmouk Military Industrial Complex in southern Khartoum rocked Sudan's capital before dawn Wednesday, sending detonating ammunition flying through the air and causing panic, Sudan's official news agency and local media reports said. Nearby buildings were damaged by the blast, their roofs blown off and their windows shattered, according to the reports.

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

Officials said earlier there were no reports of deaths, although some residents had suffered from smoke inhalation.

Around 300 people gathered in the evening at the courtyard of a government building where the Sudanese Cabinet was meeting in an emergency session, shouting "Death to Israel" and "Remove Israel from the map."

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"Israel is a country of injustice that needs to be deterred," Vice President Ali Osman Taha, standing next to President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, told the crowd. "This attack only strengthens our firmness."

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 showing a huge crater next to two destroyed buildings and what appeared to be a rocket lying on the ground.

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Osman said an analysis of rocket debris and other material had shown that the attack had been engineered by Israel, which Sudan views as an enemy.

Defense Minister Gen. Abdul Rahim Mohamed Hussein and senior officials visited the site of the explosion and held an emergency meeting with top army generals while security forces sealed off the area surrounding the complex and halted traffic.

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In 2009, a convoy carrying weapons in northeastern Sudan was targeted from the air, killing dozens. It was widely believed that Israel carried out the attack on weapons shipment headed for Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. Israel never confirmed or denied that. Sudanese parliamentarians denied that weapons were transported in the area.

In 1998, the United States used cruise missiles to knock out a Khartoum pharmaceutical factory suspected of links to al-Qaida in the aftermath of the terror group's bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

Sudan has long been a major hub for al-Qaida militants and a transit for weapon smugglers and African migrant traffickers.

NBC News' Senior Investigative Producer Robert Windrem, the Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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