FBI agents in Sudan to probe US diplomat's killing
( AFP ) - FBI and other US investigators have arrived in the Sudanese capital to join the probe into the killing of a US diplomat in a drive-by shooting on New Year's Day, officials said Friday.
"An American security team has arrived in Khartoum to take part in the investigation being led by Sudanese police," a Sudanese security source said, according to the official SUNA news agency.
A US embassy official confirmed to AFP that American investigators had arrived in Khartoum.
John Granville, 33, a USAID official, and his 40-year-old driver Abdel Rahman Abbas were struck down in their car by a hail of bullets before dawn on January 1.
It is not clear if the gunmen specifically targeted the official or were involved in a random crime, although Sudan's foreign ministry has called the attack "an isolated incident which has no political connotations."
Granville's body was repatriated back to the United States late on Thursday.
Sudanese police cited a coroner's report as saying Granville, who worked for the US Agency for International Development, died from internal bleeding after he was hit by five bullets in the head, neck and chest.
"We are awaiting instructions on our collaboration with the American team," the head of the police investigations department, Abidin Tahar, told the Sudanese press.
"The inquiry is already progressing well," he said, without giving further details, although police officials said they have now questioned several witnesses in connection with the case.
The interior ministry has said the diplomatic car had been caught in a fight which broke out as some Sudanese nationals were on the street celebrating the New Year.
Relations between Sudan and the United States have long been strained, most recently over the near five-year conflict in the western region of Darfur where Washington has accused Khartoum of genocide.
The attack occurred a day after US President George W. Bush signed a law aimed at piling economic pressure on the Khartoum government over Darfur, where 200,000 people have died and more than two million made homeless, according to the United Nations.
It also came a day after a new joint African Union-United Nations force took over peacekeeping in Darfur from an AU mission which has failed to stem the bloodshed.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack had told reporters on Wednesday that a joint diplomatic security and FBI team would be "collecting the evidence they possibly can to work closely with the Sudanese government to determine who's responsible for these murders and bring them to justice."
McCormack said he was unaware of any specific threats to US government officials or other nationals in Sudan.
However, in September, the US embassy issued a travel warning alerting its citizens that the government had received indications of terrorist threats aimed at US and other Western interests in Sudan.
"We continue to urge all American citizens living in Sudan to exercise heightened security awareness," the embassy said in a warden message after Monday's attack, adding that the motive was not yet known.
"Terrorist groups continue to seek opportunities to carry out attacks against US interests."
USAID is the leading international donor to Sudan and has contributed more than two billion dollars for humanitarian programmes in the country, including Darfur, and eastern Chad since 2004.