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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sudan expels Bloomberg journalist reporting on arms production

CAIRO — Sudan has blocked a foreign reporter's research on its military industry.   

The Khartoum regime has expelled a Western journalist who sought to report on Sudan's defense industry. Heba Aly, a correspondent for the U.S.-based Bloomberg financial news agency, arrived in Sudan in mid-2008 and sought to interview weapons manufacturers in the country.

"The U.S. embassy in Khartoum condemns this expulsion and continues to deplore infringements by the government of Sudan upon freedom of the press and expression," the U.S. embassy said on Feb. 9.

Ms. Aly, who also reports for the Christian Science Monitor and the United Nations news service, telephoned for an appointment with an unidentified Khartoum-based defense factory, Middle East Newsline reported. Within a day, Sudan's security service ordered her deported.

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"I was never given any written expulsion order, despite my repeated requests," Ms. Aly, a Canadian-Egyptian national, said. "I was simply harassed, and was counselled by someone in government that if I did not leave I would be arrested. The reason they gave me was that I was asking about arms. But they told me the line they would use publicly was that I didn't have my work papers."

In late 2008, Ms. Aly reported on military procurement by the autonomous government in southern Sudan. She asserted that main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, rocket-propelled grade launchers, mortars and assault rifles were pouring into southern Sudan while the Khartoum regime was receiving fighter-jets from China and the former East Bloc.

Sudan has cracked down on dissent as well as on the independent media amid deliberations by the International Criminal Court to prosecute President Omar Bashir. ICC was expected to decide on whether to issue an arrest warrant against Bashir, accused of genocide in Darfour, by March 2009. Over the last year, Western diplomats said, Sudan has increased military and defense cooperation with such countries as China, Iran and Russia. They said the Bashir regime was preparing its military for campaigns in Darfour as well as in southern Sudan.

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