Sudanese authorities have seized a cargo of 72 boxes of weapons that arrived by air from Ethiopia and that they suspect were destined for use in “crimes against the state”, Sudan’s state news agency, SUNA, reported on Sunday.
Ethiopian Airlines said the weapons were hunting guns that were part of a legal, verified shipment.
The shipment is being investigated by a committee tasked with dismantling the government of former President Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in April 2019 after a popular uprising, SUNA reported.
The weapons had arrived in Ethiopia from Moscow in May 2019, the committee found.
The intended recipient of the weapons was unclear but the committee did not rule out that they were meant for former Bashir government loyalists who Sudanese authorities accuse of trying to undermine the country’s fragile transition towards democracy, according to SUNA.
The boxes included weapons and night-vision goggles and arrived on an Ethiopian Airlines commercial flight on Saturday night, SUNA reported, without giving further details.
The committee pointed “to suspicions that these weapons were intended to be used in crimes against the state, impeding the democratic transition and preventing the transition to the civil state”, SUNA reported.
Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement that the guns had been held for a long time in Addis Ababa for verification, and that the consignee, who it did not name, had sued the airline in a Sudanese court, demanding it deliver the guns pay $250 000 in compensation.
Dina Mufti, spokesperson for the Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Ministry, did not respond to a request for comment.
Tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia have been running high due to a spillover of the conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and Ethiopia’s construction of a giant hydropower dam on the Blue Nile.
The Tigray conflict has sent tens of thousands of refugees into eastern Sudan and triggered military skirmishes in an area of contested farmland along the border between the two countries.