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Sudan suspects Israel of using vultures as spy drones

© AFP

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2012-12-13

According to certain media reports, Sudanese officials suspect that a vulture “captured” in early December was spying for Israel, after it was found carrying GPS equipment marked “Israel Nature Service”.

Sudanese officials suspect Israel of using GPS-tagged vultures as spy drones, according to the Egyptian media.

Cairo daily El Balad reported on Monday, in a story followed up by Israeli news site Haaretz and UK daily The Telegraph, that Sudan’s military had “captured” one such vulture at the beginning of December in the country’s Darfur region.

The bird was equipped with a solar-powered GPS device that could reportedly transmit images by satellite.

Sudanese officials, according to El Balad, suspect the scavenging bird of being an Israeli spy.

The vital clue was a leg band marked “Israel Nature Service” and “Hebrew University, Jerusalem.”

“This means the equipment installed on the vulture was mounted on it in its home country,” according to El Balad.

There was no news on the fate of the vulture itself.

‘Migratory study’

Israeli ecologist Ohad Hafoze confirmed to Israeli news site Ynet.com that the bird had indeed been carrying Israeli tags, but denied that it was on a spying mission for the Hebrew state’s military machine.

The vulture, he explained, came from the Balkans and was capable of flying 600km a day. Wild birds that visit Israel on their migrations are often tagged to help ornithologists in their research on migratory patterns.

“This is a young vulture that was tagged, along with 100 others, in October. He has two wing bands and a German-made GPS chip,” Hafoze told Ynet.com, adding that the device on the bird did not include a camera and only transmitted data on distance and altitude.

“We knew something had happened to it because all of a sudden it stopped flying and started travelling on the ground,” he said.

Tensions between Khartoum and Tel Aviv

The Israeli government is unlikely to deploy something as unpredictable and uncontrollable as a vulture for its spying missions.

The country has the most sophisticated espionage apparatus of any Middle Eastern country, including drones, reportedly monitoring Syrian chemical weapons sites, and the Ofek spy satellites which are capable of an imaging resolution of a half metre on the ground.

And even if the idea of using spy-vultures is entering the realms of the ridiculous, Sudan has every reason to suspect Israel of paying it special attention.

Israel has accused Khartoum of being a conduit of Iranian weapons destined for Hamas militants in Gaza.

At the end of October, Sudan accused Israel of bombing the Yarmouk military factory in capital Khartoum.

Tel Aviv neither confirmed nor denied it had carried out the bombing, although a senior member of the Israeli Defence Ministry said after the attack that “Sudan is a dangerous terrorist state.”

On Saturday, two Iranian warships docked at Port Sudan, the second time the country’s navy has paid a visit to Sudan in the space of five weeks.

Sudanese army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad had initially announced the warship visit for November 30.

"It is part of diplomatic and military exchanges between the two countries," and will last for three days, he told reporters on Friday.

Date created : 2012-12-13

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