Speculation, speculation, speculation: BBC ‘news’ report on Sudan fire

Wednesday morning’s BBC World Service news reported, among other things, a fire in an ammunition factory in Sudan. As the day progressed, a Sudanese government minister came up with a story about “four radar-evading aircraft” that “appeared to come from the east” – and the BBC rushed to publish. 

So what do we have in the story as far as facts and hard evidence goes? Well; nothing.

“The Sudanese government says it believes Israel was responsible” 

“Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman said: “We think Israel did the bombing”

[emphasis added]

But why should a mere lack of facts spoil a dramatic story?

Further commentary by BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus adds an even more bizarre tone to the article: 

“At this stage there is no way of knowing who was responsible for the air attack against the Yarmouk arms factory in Khartoum.” [emphasis added]

Quite, and therefore an article based entirely on speculation and rumors promoted by one of the world’s less salubrious regimes is rather pointless. But it is interesting that Marcus seems to accept that there was an “air attack”, despite the lack of hard evidence. 

It is especially noteworthy because the Governor of Khartoum, whom one assumes is likely to be more up to date on the situation than a BBC correspondent in London, has denied that an air strike occurred at all. 

“Khartoum State Governor Abdel Rahman Al-Khidir said in a televised statement that the cause of the incident is not clear yet but he discounted the possibility of foreign entities being involved.

His statement was clearly aiming to quell wildly spreading rumours that the factory was hit by an airstrike. Some witnesses told Sudan Tribune that the explosion occurred after a sound resembling that of a rocket was heard and the sky lit up. There is also a rumor that an airplane carrying military materiel crashed on the site of the factory but Sudan Tribune was not able to independently verify those claims.

Al-Khidir said that the explosion probably happened at the main storage facility of the large factory.

SAF’s [Sudanese Armed Forces] spokesman Al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad said that an internal explosion occurred in one of the storage facilities and the fire spread due to the plenty of grass in the area. He confirmed that they already launched an investigation into the incident.

An anonymous police source also told AFP that the explosion erupted during a routine maintenance operation, adding that the authorities continue to count the losses.

A similar explosion occurred at the same factory in August 2006 leading to the injury of seven SAF members. The authorities attributed the incident at the time to an electric short circuit.”

Nevertheless, Marcus continues: 

“While the Sudanese authorities are yet to provide any evidence for their accusation that it was Israel, this is by no means as outlandish as it might sound” [emphasis added]

Ah, the suspense!

“For a bitter secret war has been going on for a number of years between Israel and Hamas” [emphasis added]

That must be one of the worst kept secrets on the planet: except from some BBC correspondents, apparently. 

Perhaps – had they been a little less caught up in the drama of speculation about Israeli “radar-evading aircraft” – BBC journalists could have asked the Sudanese government minister about the apparent claims by the Sudanese opposition that the munitions factory in question belongs to the Iranian Republican Guard, or why it is situated in such close proximity to a busy city. 

There might have been a real story in that. 

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