Friday, May 2, 2014

Sudan's Pursuit of Biological Weapons: A dangerous agenda in a country known for genocide

Sudan has consistently been accused of trying to develope and deploy chemical and biological weapons by the international community and arms control experts. The manufacturing processes involved in several biological warfare agents have a dual use designation. Every biological weapon program developed by a state to date, has used sections of their civilian bio-pharmaceutical industry (even very rudimentary ones), as cover for research and development of BW. A high percentage of pathogenic agents suitable for warfare (meaning they are developed in a state military laboratory) are zoonotic, crossing from animal to human. Variola major is one of the few exceptions as it's only host is human. The manufacturing processes used in veterinary vaccine production are similar and complimentary up until the final stages of production, for manufacturing weaponized biological agents.
Although Sudan is better known for its ethnic cleansing of non-Arab populations in Dafur more than a decade ago and resulting investigation of genocide by the International Criminal Court, based in the Hague, The Netherlands, it also garners a reputation as pursing a rudimentary BW program and not just once. Conspiracy theories aside, on August 20, 1998   the US   fired  tomahawk cruise missiles which destroyed the al Shifa Pharmaceutical plant, a section of which was designed to manufacture veterinary vaccines. Among other evidence collected,  "The U.S. had reasons to believe Sudan would want chemical weapons. Its fighting a civil war against U.S. supported rebels, has little money to buy conventional arms and hasn't signed on to a global anti-chemical-weapon treaty (CWC). And because the country has given refuge to terrorists in the past, the U.S. says it had to take seriously reports that Mr. bin Laden and Iraq were helping Sudan make chemical weapons. U.S. officials say the main argument for making El Shifa a target was and remains soil samples, obtained in January, [ ] by a CIA trained agent. The officials say three separate tests on the soil turned up strong 'hits' for a substance known as EMPTA, which can easily be turned into VX nerve gas." See:

In November of 2001, John Bolton, then U.S. Undersecretary of State, announced at the BTWC in Geneve that the United States was ''concerned about Sudan's growing interest" in biological weapons, and suggested Sudan was among five nations believed to be pursuing germ warfare. A disturbing picture emerges of Sudan's attempts to acquire a CBW capability. 

"According to a House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, in the early 1990s, the “Iraqis moved into the area of the Red Sea mountain range — in Madabay in Khawr Ashraf, Port Sudan, in the region of Dalawat on the Red Sea near Hala’ib and the city of Tawker in the region of Karnakanat. The Iraqis brought into these installations high-tech equipment and computers, missiles, defense systems, anti-aircraft systems and radar systems. By late 1993, the regions surrounding these installations were experiencing strict security measures and 24-hour armed patrols roam around it. In some areas, such as in the Port Sudan area, shepherds and nomads were completely removed from security zones within a 60-kilometer circumference.

Meanwhile, teams of Iraqi intelligence, military and commando officers arrived in Khartoum in the summer of 1995 to assist the Sudanese armed forces against what the Iraqis now called ‘foreign intervention in Sudan.’” The House report is filled with troubling information. The Iraqi units were deployed to guard Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction inside Sudan — to train the Sudanese in intelligence gathering and to restructure the Islamic Sudanese Army in the same manner as the Iraqi Republican Guard.
Iraqi troops fought in south Sudan near Pibor against the black Christian SPLA army in the fall of 1995. About 120 Iraqi crews arrived in Pibor with tanks and uniforms marked with the insignia of the Iraqi Republican Guard. Iraqi artillery forces shelled SPLA camps in Torit with napalm bombs and wounded or killed over 250 people. The Iraqi air force dropped chemical bombs on Kadugli and the Namang mountains in southern Sudan. Eyewitnesses reported that “deaths and injuries occurred among residents” and that “there was a big change in the color of the corpses and of animals and trees.” Chemical warfare of this type has been well-documented in Afghanistan and Southeast Asia.
Other biological and/or chemical attacks were carried out at Nimule and at Kuya — near Juba, Sudan’s southern capital. The Tulushi-Tulus mountains area was also similarly attacked. Near Soba, outside Khartoum, the Iraqis and the Sudanese also carried out tests of chemical agents in the desert. In May 1997, residents got sick when winds shifted suddenly and carried residues into populated areas.
By the summer of 1997, Khartoum completed the building of a new and far more sophisticated chemical weapons production factory in the region of Kafuri, north of Khartoum on the banks of the Blue Nile. The Kafuri facility includes laboratories, testing and prototype production sites for both chemical weapons — including nerve agents — and biological weapons, as well as storage sites for bulk chemicals and weapons loaded with both chemical and biological payloads.
Among the chemical weapons tested in Kafuri are 122mm and 152mm artillery shells, as well as rocket and tactical missile warheads. In building this factory, the Sudanese relied on technical assistance from Iraq and Iran. Additional expertise came from Egypt, Croatia, Bulgaria and Russia — all recruited by Iraqi intelligence on behalf of the Sudanese. The key experts who helped with this program have been residing in a luxurious dormitory inside the compound.
The Yarmook Industrial Complex is another area of concern for the West. This military-controlled strategic installation covers an area of 10 by 20 kilometers in southern Khartoum. There are over 300 small buildings and sheds in seven clusters in the compound. The complex includes a production line for chemical agents, as well as production facilities for military equipment and weapons connected with the use of chemical weapons. These include warheads, bombs and canisters, as well as protective gear and special modifications to combat vehicles carrying these weapons.
In addition, the compound includes a special medical clinic, sports facilities, a mosque and a high-security living site where Muslim foreign experts from Iraq, Iran and Bulgaria live in two dormitories. There are also guesthouses for senior project advisers from Iraq and Iran. Moreover, there is a small farm ensuring the supply of fresh milk, vegetables and dates for the WMD workers. The famine and scorched-earth policies pursued by Khartoum in south Sudan do not affect the eating habits of these doomsday scientists.
Well-protected underground storage sites are found at several other locations as well. The Sudanese military has recently begun training pilots and artillery officers in maintaining and using chemical weapons in a special school set up in the Wadi Seidna military compound. Osama bin Laden is building his own chemical weapons facility near the Islamic Center in Khartoum." See: and

Unfortunately, Al Shifa was not the last time Sudan would come under suspicion of manufacturing biological and chemical warfare agents or attempting to transfer large arms shipments from the IRGC. In October of 2012 their was an explosion at the  Al Yarmook Munitions factory, destroying 60% of the facility based on Sudanese estimates. As of 2004, Sudan was not believed to have an active biological weapon program, however it is widely believed they have and continue to pursue such options.
The real issue of Sudan possibly pursing biological weapons is problematic for a number of reasons. It has a history of conflict and genocide, its suspected of providing support to terrorists, its suspected of working with Iran to arm Hamas, its suspected of offering field testing and training organized by the IRGC for Hezbollah special operations forces on CBW; more recently it dropped parachute bombs in the Nuba Mountains.  Local aid workers reported two Sudanese Air Force jets dropped 13 parachute bombs on the villages of Tamadirgo and Dar, in the South Kordofan States of Sudan. The bombs killed at least three people, including a 13-year-old boy. Since April 2012, 1,371 bombs have been dropped on civilian targets in Nuba, according to But the parachute tactic only started in November, dropping bombs that weigh up to 820 pounds. With a delayed detonation and quiet drop, the parachute bombs have proven to be destructive and deadly. Several years ago there were a number of  unsubstantiated accounts of Khartoum dropping BW loaded paracheut bombs near Juba, now in South Sudan. Read more:
Such bombs have previously been associated with the former Soviet Union's biological weapon program 'Biopreparat', as a method for delivering BW agents, sensitive to heat and in some instances ultraviolet light. In addition to these factors, Sudan has very primitive public health care infrastructure and would not be in a position to contain an outbreak of deliberate disease without significant intervention by the UN (WHO). Unlike chemical weapons, biological weapons are much cheaper to produce and most are selected and developed to be highly transmissible, so any outbreak would be global public health concern. Unfortunately, biological agents and a veterinary vaccine facility can produce low cost BW. In nations, like Sudan, which suffer poverty, war, disease and lack public health infrastructures, biological weapons for warfare may not pose ethical dilemmas. As I frequently state, the issue then is one of containment and response by the intentional community who will be at risk should Khartoum decide to ramp up a program, particularly with support from major state sponsors of terrorism:  Iran. 

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