US diplomat killed in Sudan

The New Year began with violence in Sudan as a United States diplomat was gunned down during his drive home in the capital of Khartoum.

In Washington, the Agency for International Development identified the diplomat as one of its officials, John Granville, 33, originally of Buffalo. American officials said it was “too early to tell” if the shooting had been random or planned, but Sudanese officials said the circumstances were suspicious, especially because gun crime is rare in Khartoum, considered one of the safest cities in Africa.

The United Nations had recently warned its staff in Sudan that there was credible evidence that a terrorist cell was in the country and planning to attack foreigners.

According to Western officials, Mr. Granville left a New Year’s Eve party at the British Embassy around 2:30 a.m. and was being driven to his home in an upscale neighborhood in central Khartoum. Shortly before he arrived, a car pulled up next to him and 17 shots were fired, Sudanese officials said.

Mr. Granville’s driver, a Sudanese employee of the American Embassy, was killed instantly, and Mr. Granville was shot in the neck and chest. He was taken to the hospital and died several hours later.

Considering Granville was an employee of USAID, an agency that frequently participates in regime change, it’s probably equally likely that the Khartoum government lent a hand to whoever was planning the attack. The New York Times itself seemed to be alluding to the same idea:

Mr. Granville had served the Agency for International Development in Sudan as well as Nairobi. A photo on the agency’s Web site shows Mr. Granville standing amid a crowd of African women, each holding a radio distributed by the agency.

Mr. Granville had been deeply involved in a project to distribute 450,000 radios equipped with generator cranks and solar panels, which work in places with no electricity.

The goal was to prepare southern Sudan for elections in 2009 and a possible referendum in 2011 on independence, according to Shari K. Bryan, who is a senior associate and regional director for East and Southern Africa at the National Democratic Institute, a nonprofit, pro-democracy group based in Washington.

Regardless of who was ultimately responsible for the killing, it seems likely that Granville’s death is a backlash to the ongoing conflict in Darfur. The attack followed only a day after the African Union handed-off autonomous control of the peacekeeping forces in the region to a hybrid United Nations-African Union force.

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