366343A government minister in Sudan is accusing the United States Air Force of killing dozens of people in that north African country this past January – but the semi-official American version of the story is very different.
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin has been told that Israeli aircraft carried out the attack. Israeli intelligence is said to have discovered that weapons were being trucked through Sudan, heading north toward Egypt, whereupon they would cross the Sinai Desert and be smuggled into Hamas-held territory in Gaza.
In January, the U.S. signed an agreement with Israel that calls for an international effort to stop arms smuggling into Gaza. Hamas was showering rockets on Israeli towns, and Israel had responded by invading Gaza. More than 1,000 Palestinians were reportedly killed in the December-January war, and 13 Israelis lost their lives.
In the airstrike in Sudan – said to have been "in a desert area northwest of Port Sudan city, near Mount al-Sha'anoon," according to SudanTribune.com – 39 people riding in 17 trucks were reportedly killed.
The first government official in Sudan to talk about it was the state minister for highways, Mabrouk Mubarak Saleem, who said: "A major power bombed small trucks carrying arms – burning all of them. It killed Sudanese, Eritreans, and Ethiopians and injured others."
According to SudanTribune.com, the airstrike was an "embarrassment" to Sudan's government, and it discussed the matter with Egypt's government – allied with the U.S. on most issues – "to gather more information to formulate a response."
The Web site added: "American and Israeli diplomats said the [January] agreement includes intelligence coordination to prevent arms from Iran from entering Gaza, maritime efforts to identify ships carrying weaponry, and the sharing of U.S. and European technologies to discover and prevent the use of weapons-smuggling tunnels."
If Israeli airplanes carried out the attack in Sudan, it would suggest that there is a shadow war against Hamas and its weapons sources that is wider than the Israeli or U.S. government has revealed.
Dan Raviv is a CBS News correspondent in Washington.