Report: Sudan Tells U.S. Nuba Raid Was 'Mistake'

News and Press Release
Originally published
KHARTOUM, Sudan (Reuters) - A Sudanese government minister told a U.S. special envoy that an air raid on a school in the Nuba mountains had been a mistake, a newspaper said Monday.

The private al-Rai al-Aam said Justice Minister Ali Mohamed Osman Yassin had made the comment in talks with Harry Johnston, who arrived in Khartoum Saturday on his first visit since President Clinton appointed him in August.

''The bombing was done by mistake...the government did not intend to strike civilians, but in military matters it is not possible to pinpoint accurately,'' it quoted Yassin as saying.

The left-wing al-Rai al-Akher daily said Johnston had raised the issue in talks with members of the Islamist-led government.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright last month voiced outrage at a government raid on February 8 in which bombs hit the school, killing 14 children and a teacher.

Khartoum had said the school, lying in territory contested by rebels waging a 17-year civil war, was a legitimate target.

Al-Rai al-Akher said Johnston had questioned Khartoum's refusal to let relief planes fly to parts of the war-ravaged south and raised the issue of slavery.

Yassin told Johnston there was no slavery in Sudan and demanded the release of 3,000 children he said were being held in rebel camps, the newspaper said.

Ali al-Saeed, a member of the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA), told Johnston during his visit that the government was holding 46 political prisoners, the independent al-Ayam newspaper reported.

The government denies holding political prisoners.

Johnston was the first high-level U.S. official to visit Sudan since U.S. cruise missiles destroyed Khartoum's Shifa pharmaceutical factory, which Washington said was producing nerve gas ingredients, in 1998. Sudan denies the charge.

The ruling National Congress party has demanded that Johnston visit the plant. The attack wounded seven civilians, one of whom later died.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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