Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sudan Update: Weapons convoy bombing incident clarified. "U.S.A. didn't do it. It was the Israelis!"

Updates March 28-31, 2009

Information about the ‘UFO incident’ over Sudan is becoming somewhat clearer now. Apparently CBS News was not the original source but the new Egyptian newspaper named Al Shorouk (Hat tip to The Arabist for being on top of the breaking news story from the very beginning).

According to updated reports from the New York Times, The Lede blog at the New York Times, and reports from Israel’s Haaretz Newspaper ‘the Israelis done it!’ The Pentagon and the White House have yet to (officially) comment on the incident but Israel’s outgoing president Ehud Olmert has more-or-less confirmed that it was the IAF in a speech he gave on Thursday (source: Haaretz Newspaper):

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert hinted on Thursday at Israel's suspected role in an air-strike that reportedly hit a convoy of arms smugglers as it drove through Sudan toward Egypt in January. "We operate everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure - in close places, in places further away, everywhere where we can hit terror infrastructure, we hit them and we hit them in a way that increases deterrence," said Olmert, speaking at a conference in Herzliya.

End excerpt___

Time Magazine (TIME.com) has one of the best updated reports that I have read on the raid over Sudan. According to Time.com sources this is what really happened:

TIME.com (Time Magazine)
How Israel Foiled an Arms Convoy Bound for Hamas
March 30, 2009

Israeli fighter-bombers, backed by unmanned drones, were responsible for a mid-January attack on a 23-truck convoy in the Sudanese desert carrying arms to Hamas militants, two highly-placed Israeli security sources revealed to TIME. The attack was a warning to Iran and other adversaries, showing Israel's intelligence capability and its willingness to mount operations far beyond its borders in order to defend itself from gathering threats.

The sources revealed exclusive details about the bold air attack on what they said was an Iranian weapons convoy, which had been transporting rockets and explosives destined for Gaza during the Israeli assault on the small Palestinian territory. They denied earlier news reports that U.S. aircraft had been involved in the attack on the arms convoy as it crossed at night through the Sudanese desert heading for Egypt's poorly guarded border. "The Americans were notified that Israel was going to conduct an air operation in Sudan, but they were not involved," a source said. He denied prior claims by a U.S. television network that a ship and a second convoy were destroyed. "There was only one raid, and it was a major operation," he said, adding that "dozens of aircraft" were used.

F-16 fighter-bombers carried out two runs on the convoy, while F-15 fighter planes circled overhead as a precaution in case hostile aircraft were scrambled from Khartoum or a nearby country. After the first bombing run, drones mounted with high-resolution cameras passed over the burning trucks. The video showed that the convoy had only been partially damaged, so the Israelis ordered a second pass with the F-16s. During the 1,750-mile (2800 km) journey to Sudan and back, the Israeli aircraft refueled in midair over the Red Sea.

The bombing raid came after an intelligence tip-off. In early January, at the height of Israel's assault on Gaza, Israel's foreign intelligence agency Mossad was told by an informant that Iran was planning a major delivery of 120 tons of arms and explosives to Gaza, including anti-tank rockets and Fajir rockets with a 25 mile range and a 45 kg warhead. With little time to plan the operation, naval vessels and helicopters were rushed to the Red Sea in case Israel had to rescue a downed pilot, and the plan was rushed through. "The Israelis had less than a week to pull this all together," a source said.

The Iranian shipment was bound for Port Sudan. From there, according to the security sources, the Iranians had organized a smuggler's convoy of 23 trucks that would take the weapons across Egypt's southern border and up into the Sinai. Hamas would then take charge of the weapons and smuggle them into Gaza through the tunnels unscathed by Israeli bombardments.

It was a route used occasionally by Hamas, but never before on such a large scale, sources said. "This was the first time that the Iranians had tried to send Hamas a shipment this big via Sudan — and it is probably the last," he said. Several Iranians were killed in the raid, along with Sudanese smugglers and drivers, the source claimed. "No doubt the Iranians are checking back to see who might have leaked this to the Israelis," he said.

End excerpt___

American government officials who asked to remain anonymous spoke with The New York Times earlier this week about the air raid in Sudan. Here is how the New York Times describes the incident:

The New York Times
U.S. Officials Say Israel Struck in Sudan by Jeffrey Gettleman and Michael R. Gordon – March 26, 2009

Israeli warplanes bombed a convoy of trucks in Sudan in January that was believed to be carrying arms to be smuggled into Gaza, according to American officials.

Israeli officials refused to confirm or deny the attack, but intelligence analysts noted that the strike was consistent with other measures Israel had taken to secure its borders.

American officials said the airstrike took place as Israel sought to stop the flow of weapons to Gaza during the weeks it was fighting a war with Hamas there.

Two American officials who are privy to classified intelligence assessments said that Iran had been involved in the effort to smuggle weapons to Gaza. They also noted that there had been intelligence reports that an operative with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps had gone to Sudan to coordinate the effort.

But one former official said that the exact provenance of the arms that were being smuggled via Sudan was unclear.

Although the airstrike was carried out two months ago, it was not publicized until Sudanese officials said Thursday that a convoy of trucks in the remote eastern part of Sudan was bombed by what they called “American fighters,” killing dozens. The strikes were first reported on several Internet-based news sites, including CBSNews.com.

End excerpt____

AFRICOM, the new U.S. Africa Command (based in Germany), issued the following statement via their spokesman Vince Crawley (source: The New York Times)

Vince Crawley, a spokesman for the United States Africa Command, said American forces had not bombed Sudan. “The U.S. military has not conducted any airstrikes, fired any missiles or undertaken any combat operations in or around Sudan since October 2008, when U.S. Africa Command formally became responsible for U.S. military action in Africa,” he said.

The American officials who described the Israeli role declined to be identified because they were discussing classified information and were not authorized to speak for the Obama administration. One American military official said the January strike was one of a series of Israeli attacks against arms shipments bound for Gaza.

End excerpt____

If it is true that Iran sent operatives to Sudan to facilitate the smuggling of short-range missiles and sophisticated armor-piercing munitions to Hamas in Gaza, then Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and his regime have a helluva lot more to worry about than an ICC arrest warrant for his war crimes against the people of Darfur.

Why didn’t Sudan’s air force and navy detect and engage (intercept) the squadrons consisting of numerous Israeli fighters and bombers entering Sudan airspace. Was it cowardice (most likely) or did the Sudanese military simply not see these aircraft on their sophisticated new defense radar systems? What about the hundreds of Chinese and Russian military advisors running around the country, they must have seen something? Non? Nichts?

It is no wonder that Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak didn’t bother to share the stage with Sudan’s president and Libya’s leader Muammar el-Qaddafi at the Arab League Summit in Doha (Qatar) this week. Sudan is on the road to perdition under this regime, and so is anyone who is foolish enough to back them, including their ‘brothers-in-arms’ at the Doha Summit.

Related articles and resources

TIME.com (Time Magazine International edition)
How Israel Foiled an Arms Convoy Bound for Hamas 03/30/09

The New York Times
Often Split, Arab Leaders Unite for Sudan’s Chief 03/30/09
U.S. Officials Say Israel Struck in Sudan 03/26/09

The Lede: the New York Times’ news blog
Qaddafi Erupts, on Schedule 03/30/09
Sudan Airstrike Mystery Update 03/27/09

Haaretz.com (Israel)
Sudan says Israel 'most probably' behind attack (text and video) 03/27/09
'Egypt boosts Sudan border troops over Gaza smuggling' 03/27/09
IAF Sudan strike / Olmert: Israel will target threats near and far 03/26/09
ANALYSIS : In bombing Sudan, Israel sends message to Iran by Amos Harel 03/26/09

The Arabist (Cairo, Egypt)
Qadhafi never disappoints (Libya's leader at the Arab Summit in Doha) 03/31/09
The Prince of Hyperbole 03/29/09
ABC News: Three Israeli attacks on Sudan, not just one 03/28/09
Things to remember about the Sudan air strike 03/27/09
Mubarak will not go to Doha Arab summit 03/27/09
On al-Shorouk (interview with the author of The Arabist) 03/27/09
CBS says Israel, not US, behind Sudan strike 03/26/09

Spiegel Online International (Germany)
Al-Bashir Arrest Warrant: Qatari Emir Warns of 'Chaos' in Sudan 03/28/09
Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine interviews the Emir of Qatar re: Sudan’s President al-Bashir and the ICC arrest warrant before the Arab League Summit in Doha

The Washington Post
Sudan Alleges Foreign Airstrikes Near Border With Egypt 03/27/09

The Christian Science Monitor
Will Arab leaders discuss Israeli airstrike in Sudan? 03/29/09

Foreign Policy Magazine
FP Blogs: Mark Lynch – author of the Abu Aardvark Middle East blog
The Doha Summit: A user's guide

The Arab League Summit (Doha, Qatar) – March 30-31, 2009

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Sudan: UFO's dropping bombs sighted over Port Sudan

Breaking News March 26, 2009
UFO’s bomb and strafe convoy near Port Sudan killing hundreds!

Look, everybody needs to back up for a minute and take a deep breadth.

Al Jazeera News reported yesterday that in January 2009 U.S. fighter jets attacked and destroyed a vehicle convoy outside of Port Sudan that was allegedly transporting weapons and munitions to Hamas fighters in Gaza. The facts are still unclear but the original news story broke at the CBS News World Watch blog on Wednesday. The Times of London ran a different story reporting that the attack was carried out by the IAF (Israeli Air Force). Al Jazeera reports that the Transportation Minister for the Government of Sudan confirmed that two airstrikes killed several people and inured 50, but that the Sudanese Foreign Minister Deng Alor claims he had no prior knowledge of any such attacks on a convoy smuggling weapons and munitions to Hamas via routes through Sudan into Egypt. The Times story updated on March 27th goes into more detail based on their sources and research. I have no idea how the story is playing out in the blogosphere, but to be honest I’m afraid to look.

Updates on the story less than 24 hours later:

Al Jazeera News – English
Jets 'bombed convoy in Sudan' 03/27/09
Note: the words “U.S. Jets” was dropped from the original headline of March 26th and the story has been updated (edited)
Al Jazeera News Channel at YouTube (video)
Note: see Al Jazeera MOBILE BULLETIN (video) - 0535GMT - 27 March 09

CBS News (USA)
Sudan Says Foreign Airstrikes Hit Weapons Convoy (AP) 03/26/09

CBS News World Watch blog
U.S. Accused Of Killing 39 In Sudan Strike by Dan Raviv 03/25/09
Note: this blog post at CBS News was the original breaking news story about the alleged U.S./Israeli air raid on the arms convoy in Sudan

The New York Times (USA)
The Lede (the New York Times news blog)
The Sudan Airstrike Mystery by Robert Mackey 03/26/09

The Boston Globe (USA)
US officials say Israeli jets hit convoy of trucks in Sudan 03/27/09

The Times Online (UK)
Israel suspected of bombing Sudan arms convoy headed for Gaza 03/27/09

SKY News (UK)
Israel Accused Of Launching Long-Distance Air Strike In Sudan During War In Gaza (text and video) 03/26/09

The Arabist (Cairo, Egypt)
Reuters confirms Sudan air strike 03/26/09
al-Shorouk’s story on secret Sudan raids 03/25/09
Al Shorouk news article on the air raid bombing in Sudan (Arabic) 03/25/09

The Sudanese Thinker (Singapore)
US and Israel Accused of Conducting Bombing Air Strikes within Sudan 03/26/09
Note: see my comment under the name Bill_BRE

VOA News (Voice of America news online)
AFRICOM: No US Military Role Against Sudan's Bashir 03/25/09

United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)
AFRICOM Dialogue - official blog and news website of the U.S. Africa Command

It makes one wonder what exactly was being discussed this week in Cairo during the meeting between Egypt’s President Mubarak and Sudan’s President al-Bashir, the ICC arrest warrant or UFO’s dropping bombs over Sudan?

This is the kind of 'unconfirmed facts reporting' that can cause more violence to break out in a land that is already on the brink. I’d be interested in learning how the Sudanese state-run press and TV/radio news media is playing up the incident. Anybody out there have information about those reports?

The Pentagon via a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was quick to refute the Al Jazeera report from March 26th, denying any involvement of U.S. aircraft or forces in the incident. This was followed by statements from Ambassador Mary Yates, the Deputy to the Commander of AFRICOM (General William E. Ward), in her meeting on Wednesday with African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping and the AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Ramamra. Ambassador Yates made clear to the AU heads that there is no U.S. military role (at the moment) involving the ICC arrest warrant for Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (VOA News).

So again, everybody should back up a bit and make sure that we have the facts right about serious matters like this before we publish to our blogs, news websites, or whatever. That goes for blog authors and budding citizen journalists, and the journalists, anchors, and editors over at Al Jazeera and other mainstream news organizations. We don’t need to throw any more fuel on the fire that is already burning red hot around the National Congress Party (NCP) in Khartoum. Because at the end of the day, dancing in the streets wearing native headresses and brandishing spears and swords won't help you Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Blogging for Dollars $$$: African journalists win top blog awards

It has been awhile since I have written anything about news stories coming out of Africa. Fortunately, Africa’s growing communities of blog authors, citizen and professional journalists and writers who publish their work online have begun to garner the world’s attention over the past few years. This makes my small contribution to blogging about Africa and global issues no less important but it does help to give me and others who write about Africa inspiration.

Just today I made two important discoveries about the success of Africa’s bloggers. Global Voices Online has an update on the first African Blog Awards for Journalists which led me to dig deeper and review the work of a wonderful young investigative reporter in Uganda, Rosebell Kagumire.

Rosebell, who just last year started her personal blog, is one of the winners of the first Waxal Blogging Africa Awards for Journalists. Like Andrew M. Mwenda* and other top African journalists and news professionals who have come to our attention via the CNN African Journalists Awards and the Panos Institute in London, Rosebell Kagumire and the winners of the 2009 Waxal Blog Awards are important new voices in Africa that we should closely follow.

Here is a link to a recent interview with Rosebell conducted by the Financial Times correspondent Christopher Mason:

Radio Slience – a look at efforts to increase access to media in the developing world
The View From Uganda: Multi-platform journalism and more 02/23/09

Be sure to visit the blogs of the winners of the Waxal African Blogging Awards, particularly the work of the award-winning DR Congo radio journalist Cedric Kalonji (Radio Okapi) and the news team at the Lusaka Times. Independent press and news media is under threat in many African countries but thanks to the hard work and diligence of these brave people Africans have a stronger voice on the world stage.

Note*: Some of my readers may remember the Ugandan journalist and newspaper editor, Andrew M. Mwenda, from his excellent presentation on foreign aid to Africa made at the 2007 TED Africa: The Next Chapter conference. Following his talk in Arusha (Tanzania) Mwenda’s popularity soared in the blogosphere and in the international press. Andrew had to fight against arrest on trumped-up charges by the Ugandan government in 2007 and interference by the government with the launch of his new newspaper in Kampala, The Independent. Here is an example of the type of reporting that keeps Andrew in hot water with Uganda’s longtime ruler (23 years and counting), President Yoweri Museveni:

Museveni walking same path of African dictators by Andrew Mwenda, 02/18/09

Kevin Sites, independent war correspondent and the first video correspondent for Yahoo! News (see Kevin Sites In the Hot Zone) wrote an article for Parade Magazine about Andrew Mwenda and the difficulties and dangers faced by independent investigative reporters in Uganda.

Parade.com (Parade magazine online)
'They Can Kill Me, But They Can't Kill My Ideas' by Kevin Sites, 02/01/09

Related articles and resources

PANOS London – promoting dialogue, debate, and change
Global Voices Online – Berkman Center @ Harvard University Law School
Highway Africa – Citizen Journalism, Journalism for Citizens
TED Conferences – where the world’s leading thinkers and doers gather
TED Africa Director Emeka Okafor announces new TED Fellows Program
An Introduction to Africa 2.0 and the TED Africa Conference (Ethan Zuckerman)
Deutsche Welle Best of the Blogs Awards (the BoB’s)
Reporters Without Borders – English site
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

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