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Sudanese question witnesses in American’s death

Sudanese authorities questioned witnesses on Wednesday in the slaying of a U.S. diplomat killed in a shooting as he returned from a New Year's party in the capital.
John Granville is seen in an undated photo with his mother.
John Granville is seen in an undated photo with his mother.courtesy of the Granville family
/ Source: The Associated Press

Sudanese authorities questioned witnesses on Wednesday in the slaying of a U.S. diplomat killed in a driveby shooting as he returned from a New Year's party in the capital.

One woman said she rushed to help the badly wounded American, who pleaded, "I am dying, I need help," the independent Al-Rai Al-Amm newspaper reported.

John Granville, 33, an official for the U.S. Agency for International Development, was being driven home at about 4 a.m. Tuesday when another vehicle cut off his car and opened fire before fleeing the scene, the Sudanese Interior Ministry said.

The diplomat's driver, Abdel-Rahman Abbas, was killed. Granville, who was hit by five bullets but initially survived, died after surgery, said Walter Braunohler, a public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum.

Sudanese officials insist the shooting was not a terrorist attack, but the U.S. embassy said it was too soon to determine the motive.

Investigation underway
In Washington, the State Department said investigators from its Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the FBI were heading to Khartoum. Such probes are routine when U.S. officials are killed in uncertain circumstances overseas.

"They will be sending a joint team to Sudan to investigate the murders, collect any evidence they possibly can, work closely with the Sudanese government to determine who is responsible for these murders and bring them to justice," spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

He said the Sudanese government had agreed to admit the team, the first elements of which will come from U.S. diplomatic missions in the region but will be joined as soon as possible afterward by additional investigators from Washington.

The acting U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Khartoum, Roberto Powers, met with Sudan's newly appointed Foreign Minister Deng Alor to review the latest developments in the investigation. file

"We are working closely with Sudanese authorities," Powers said in a short statement after his meeting Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry said Sudanese security services are "working actively to pursue the culprits, identify them and bring them to justice," the official SUNA news agency reported.

A Sudanese coroner, Ogail Swar al-Zahab, said Granville had been shot in the head, neck and stomach and died of a ruptured liver.

The driver's family said the two victims were heading home from a New Year's party at the home of a British diplomat when the attack occurred. The Al-Rai Al-Amm newspaper quoted a woman, Nimat Malik, who said she lived nearby and rushed to help the American.

Malik told the paper she had some medical training and wanted to try to stop his bleeding using her robes, but others bystanders warned her that she could later face trouble for tampering with evidence.

"But I saw the need to help him so I got the police car to take him to hospital to receive medical assistance," she told the paper.

'Too early to tell' if terror related
Maj. Gen. Abdin el-Tahir, the director of criminal investigations, was quoted by Sudanese media as saying that little material evidence was found on the crime scene. However, el-Tahir said some eyewitnesses have given information that could help police, the semiofficial Sudan Media Center reported.

The media center, which has close links to the government, also cited an unidentified government official as saying the attack was criminally motivated and that there was "no grain of suspicion of an organized terrorist action."

However Braunohler, the embassy spokesman, said it was "too early to tell" whether the attack was terror-related.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack, and U.S. and Sudanese officials investigating the shooting have not specified any suspects.

The Sudanese government often drums up anti-Western sentiment in the media. But attacks on foreigners are rare in Khartoum, where an American diplomat was last killed in 1973.

Granville was working to implement a 2005 peace agreement between Sudan's north and south that ended more than two decades of civil war.

Granville's family in Buffalo, N.Y. said the diplomat was committed to his work in Africa.

"John's life was a celebration of love, hope and peace," a family statement said. "He will be missed by many people throughout the world whose lives were touched and made better because of his care."

Buffalo-area congressman, Rep. Brian Higgins, said Granville knew his work put his life in danger.

"He told his mom several times ... that it's dangerous, what he's doing, but he wouldn't want to be doing anything else," said Higgins, who spoke with Granville's mother, Jane Granville, after her son's death.

Sudan calls incident 'isolated'
Sudan's Foreign Ministry said the incident was "isolated and has no political or ideological connotations" and pledged to bring the culprits to justice.

The shooting came a day after U.S. President George W. Bush signed legislation to allow states and local governments to cut investment ties with Sudan because of the violence in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, where more than 200,000 have died in a conflict that began in 2003.

It also came just as a joint U.N.-African peacekeeping force took over control in Darfur. Al-Qaida has called for a "jihad" or holy war against the peacekeepers.

But al-Qaida has shown little overt presence in Sudan in since the Sudanese government threw out Osama bin Laden in the late 1990s.

Humanitarian aid workers have come under increasing attack in Darfur by the region's multiple armed groups, but such attacks have not been known to take place in Khartoum, which is reputed much safer than other African capitals.

Police were strongly deployed around the city on Wednesday, but several expatriates said they were not taking any special security measures and that life was continuing as normal.

Granville is the first U.S. diplomat to be killed in Sudan since the 1973 assassination of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel, slain along with senior embassy officer George Curtis Moore by the Palestinian Black September militant group.