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Sudanese admit US diplomat murder in video

Five Sudanese Islamists admitted in filmed confessions their role in murdering a US diplomat and his driver in the Sudanese capital on New Year's Day.

world Updated: Sep 21, 2008 22:00 IST

Five Sudanese Islamists admitted in filmed confessions their role in murdering a US diplomat and his driver in the Sudanese capital on New Year's Day, a court heard on Sunday.

John Granville, 33, who worked for the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and his 40-year-old Sudanese driver Abdel Rahman Abbas were shot dead in their car before dawn in Khartoum on January 1.

Confessions filmed by police after the arrest of the five were shown to a crowded courtroom in Khartoum.

"The American car braked suddenly, and we stopped behind it," one of the defendants, Mohammed Makawi, 23, said on the video. "Then I shot two bullets from a pistol."

Abdelbaset al-Hajj al-Hassan, a 29-year-old merchant, then fired with an AK-47 assault rifle.

"We were looking for an American's house, when at last we saw the American's car," Hassan said on the video.

"We fired at them, and I shot six bullets from a Kalashnikov rifle...it took 10 or 15 seconds, then we left quickly."

Earlier on the evening of the attack they had spotted but spared a group of Chinese and a British man with his children, they said.

The men planned a second attack on an American target in February, but were arrested before they could carry it out, they added.

The defendants, wearing traditional white robes and religious caps, sat behind bars in a side gallery of the courtroom. Makawi called out that he was beaten and wounded on the head before he made the statement, while Hassan said he was injured on his hands.

During the previous hearing 10 days ago, four defendants said their statements were taken under duress, a claim rejected by police.

A fifth defendant, accused of supplying the group with arms but who was not present at the actual killing, said the evidence on his part given to the police was correct.

The accused have yet to make a formal plea.

In the video statements, the men described how they met in Atbara, in northern Sudan, rented a house in the capital's twin city of Omdurman and bought weapons in preparation for their attack.

On the evening of December 31, they drove around looking for victims until they found Granville and his driver, they said.

The murder sent shockwaves through the sizeable Western community in Khartoum, a city usually considered one of the safest in Africa.

The prosecution case is due to continue on Monday. The men risk hanging if found guilty.

The defendants include a son of the head of Ansar al-Sunna, a Muslim sect in Sudan that has no political affiliation but has links to the conservative Wahhabi sect dominant in Saudi Arabia.

Abdulrahim Ahmed Abdulrahim, the police officer who led the murder investigation, said they tracked emails between the men before their arrests in raids in February and March.

"We followed their communications on the Internet," he said.

Relations between Sudan and the United States are strained, with Washington accusing Khartoum of genocide during the conflict in the western region of Darfur.

Granville was killed a day after US President George W. Bush signed a law encouraging divestment from companies which do business in Sudan, in an effort to up economic pressure on Khartoum over Darfur.

According to the United Nations, up to 300,000 people have died and more than 2.2 million have fled their homes since the conflict between the Arab regime and ethnic rebels erupted in 2003. Sudan says 10,000 have been killed.