Omar Al-Bashir, the combative president of Sudan, emerged from surgery in Saudi Arabia in a fighting mood, yesterday accusing Israel of bombing a military complex in Sudan last month and of being Sudan’s “number one enemy.”
It wasn’t unusual behavior for Bashir, who is known for taking on Sudan’s enemies in caustic public pronouncements. In footage from Thursday, Bashir, making his first public appearance since undergoing a “successful small surgery,” promised a “painful” response from Sudan to the bombing of the Yarmouk military production complex in Khartoum.
“Israel will remain the number one enemy, and we will not call them anything except the Zionist enemy,” Bashir said in his speech.
“I am in perfect health, and our response to Israel will be painful,” Bashir, 68, said in a text message, according to state radio.
In the Yarmouk arms factory blast, four people were killed, but Israel has never commented on the accusation that it was responsible. For its part, Israel has long claimed that Sudan channels weapons from Iran to the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas.
The Sudanese culture and information minister, Ahmad Bilal Othman, said that the evidence gathered at the scene of the bombing proved Israel’s involvement in the attack. He said Sudan reserves the right to retaliate.
A U.S.-based monitoring group has said satellite imagery suggests a strike. In 2009, Sudan also blamed Israel for an attack on an arms convoy there.
Over 23 years in power, Bashir has had his share of challenges: multiple armed rebellions, years of U.S. trade sanctions, an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court, waves of student protests and the secession of oil-producing South Sudan last year.
In an attempt to recoup the income Sudan lost when South Sudan seceded last year—and took three-quarters of Sudan’s oil production with it—Bashir opened the nation’s first gold refinery.
Officials say it immediately becomes one of Africa’s largest gold plants, eventually hoping to challenge the Rand Refinery in South Africa in annual tonnage.
The Sudan Gold Refinery is expected to produce more than 328 tons of gold each year, compared to the 600-ton capacity at the Rand Refinery. Now that the refinery is open, Sudan is expected to ban the export of gold ore from Sudan.