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Sudan convoy bombing 'killed 119'

26 May 09 09:38 GMT

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.

The attack happened near the border between Sudan and Egypt, the state Suna news agency said.

Gaza concerns

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.

The air raid happened while Israel was engaged in intensive conflict in Gaza in a bid to stop rocket attacks into Israel.

Israel has long been concerned about weapons smuggling into Sudanese ports, up through Egypt, and then into the Gaza Strip by way of underground tunnels.

In March, when news of the attack was first reported , then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "There is no place that the state of Israel will not act, nearby and not that close."

While not confirming Israel's role, correspondents said the remark was seen as a heavy hint that Sudan's suspicions were accurate.

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