London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The editor-in-chief of Sudan’s privately-owned Al-Tayar newspaper, Osman Mirghani, has denied calling for Khartoum to normalize relations with Israel in the wake of an armed attack on the newspaper’s headquarters, allegedly over his pro-Israeli comments. Mirghani, and another journalist Abdullah Ishak, were beaten in the attack earlier this week, with the armed gunmen confiscating laptops and cell phones and destroying equipment, according to local reports.
A group calling itself “The Abu Hamza Group to Fight Atheism and Apostasy” claimed responsibility for the attack, but Mirghani said this was a front for another party. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “There are no armed groups in Khartoum. Talk about ‘armed groups’ is nothing more than an attempt to deflect responsibility from and exonerate those that attacked us. There is only one group that carries arms and it is well-known,” he said in reference to the Sudanese authorities.
The group said that it had attacked the Al-Tayar editor-in-chief for comments he made on television supporting normalization of relations with Israel. Mirghani had appeared in a television interview with the privately-owned Sudanese Blue Nile channel on July 13 in which he appeared to call for Khartoum to normalize relations with Tel Aviv. He also wrote an editorial for Al-Tayar a few days later on the same topic.
Mirghani denied the claims, saying: “I oppose normalization of relations with Israel, and I did not talk about normalizing relations with Israel at all.”
When asked whether Khartoum had directly ordered the raid on the Al-Tayar offices, or whether it had been other parties, Mirghani told Asharq Al-Awsat: “I do not know if there are different camps within the ruling regime, but I do know that we are not part of this conflict.”
He accused other Sudanese journalists of working with those who attacked him. “The attack against me was ordered and agreed on. This was an orchestrated attack.”
The Sudanese editor-in-chief said that he had been expecting an attack after the Sudanese media scene erupted following his comments about Israel. “I spoke to a colleague just two hours before the attack, telling him that I thought something was going to happen, but I had expected to be arrested, not to be attacked in this blatant and violent manner. This is the first time that a newspaper has been attacked like this,” he said.
He said that the group that attacked the Al-Tayar headquarters in Omdurman was made up of around 20 people carrying heavy weaponry, adding that he is able to identify his assailants. “I know who attacked me and I am waiting to see what the security apparatus that is investigating this incident will do.”