NPR logo U.S. Aid Official, Driver Killed in Sudan


U.S. Aid Official, Driver Killed in Sudan

Gunmen in Sudan killed a U.S. aid official and his driver early Tuesday morning.

The shooting came a day after a joint African Union-United Nations force took over peacekeeping in Sudan's Darfur region. Though Darfur, far to the west, is engulfed in violence, the Sudanese capital and its surroundings rarely see political violence or attacks by militants.

The Sudanese state news agency SUNA quoted the Foreign Ministry as saying the shooting was isolated and had no political or ideological connotations. Sudanese officials pledged to bring those responsible to justice.

The Sudan Media Center, which has close links to the government, cited an unidentified government official as saying the attack was criminal in nature and not related to terrorism.

But Walter Braunohler, the spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum who confirmed the death of the American, said it is too early to know if the attack was related to al-Qaida or terrorism.

The Sudanese driver was killed immediately and the American, who worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, died of his injuries within hours, Braunohler said.

A family member of the U.S. citizen identified him as John Granville, formerly of Buffalo, N.Y. The victim's uncle, Daniel Granville, said the family was too distraught to comment further.

New York Congressman Brian Higgins said Granville knew his work toward restoring peace in Sudan put him in harm's way, but Granville told his family he wouldn't want to be doing anything else.

The Sudanese Interior Ministry said the wounded American was shot five times in the hand, shoulder and belly. The diplomat underwent surgery following the attack, according to the ministry's statement.

The ministry identified the Sudanese driver who was killed as 40-year-old Abdel Rahman Abbas and said the attack occurred around 4 a.m. local time as the car was heading to a western suburb of Sudan's capital, Khartoum.

Both U.S. and Sudanese officials said they were investigating but could not yet provide details on the circumstances surrounding the attack.

Crime is fairly high in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, although much lower than in other east African cities like Nairobi, Kenya.

On Monday, a joint peacekeeping force took over in Darfur — a long-awaited change that is intended to be the strongest effort yet to solve the world's worst humanitarian crisis but which already is struggling. Also Monday, President Bush signed legislation to allow states and local governments to cut investment ties with Sudan because of the bloodshed in Darfur.

Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri have called in the past for "jihad," or holy war, in Sudan if U.N. peacekeepers deploy in Darfur — most recently in a September video by al-Zawahri. Bin Laden was based in Sudan until the late 1990s when the government expelled him.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press