KHARTOUM (AFP) — A Sudanese police inquiry into the New Year's Day slaying of a US diplomat and his driver in Khartoum is progressing after witnesses came forward, police said on Wednesday, although the killers' motives remain a mystery.
"Several witnesses have been questioned and the investigation is continuing in light of their accounts," police said in a statement after gunmen opened fire on the diplomatic car carrying John Granville in the early hours of Tuesday.
A coroner's report said that Granville, 33, who worked for the United States Agency for International Development, died in hospital from internal bleeding after he was hit by five bullets in the head, neck and chest, the statement said.
His driver Abdel Rahman Abbas, 40, died instantly.
Granville's body has been handed over to the US embassy in Khartoum, an embassy employee said, but the source did not know when it would be flown back to the United States.
It is not clear if the shooting was a targeted attack against the official or a random crime, although Sudan's foreign ministry has called the attack "an isolated incident which has no political connotations."
The interior ministry said the diplomatic car had been caught in a fight which broke out as some Sudanese nationals were on the street celebrating the New Year.
The US embassy has said it is helping with the police enquiry.
Foreign ministry spokesman Ali Sadeq expressed "profound regret" over the death and vowed that Sudan "would do everything to assure the protection of all diplomats and United Nations and non-governmental organisation workers."
He said it was too early to speculate on the motives of the killers who carried out the pre-dawn attack on Granville's car on a main street in a residential district of the Sudanese capital.
Relations between Sudan and the United States have long been strained, most recently over the near five-year conflict in the western region of Darfur where Washington has accused Khartoum of genocide.
In September, the US embassy issued a travel warning alerting its citizens that the government had received indications of terrorist threats aimed at US and other Western interests in Sudan.
USAID said on its website that Granville was working on a programme to bring radios to the population of south Sudan.
The attack occurred just a day after US President George W. Bush signed a law aimed at piling economic pressure on the government in Khartoum.
It also came a day after a new joint African Union-United Nations force took over peacekeeping in Darfur from an AU mission which failed to stem the conflict.
The United States accuses Sudan of committing genocide in Darfur where at least 200,000 people have been killed as a result of the fighting, according to UN figures.
In 1998, the United States launched cruise missile strikes against Khartoum following the bombings of US embassies in east Africa, attacks blamed on Al-Qaeda.
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