One dead American

Having only just arrived back in Khartoum, I haven’t had the chance to do all that much research on John Granville, the USAID official who was shot dead on the streets of Khartoum on New Year’s Eve.

I was in Naples when the story broke, and really kicked myself for being out of Khartoum. Here was a great story, with no journalist in town to cover it! I made half-hearted attempts from Italy to try and sell the story to the American media, but by the time I got round to doing this, most of the main papers – the IHT, the Washington Post, the LA Times – already had people on the ground.

The case all seems pretty strange to me, though. Here’s a guy coming home from a poker game, where he had just won lots of money, when a guy jumps in front of his car and shoots him and his driver. I spoke to the cousin of his driver, who confirmed the story that I have been reading in the papers – and furthermore told me that the attacker was white, a detail that, up until now, I had not heard about. Then we have this unknown extremist organisation claiming responsibility for the attack.

A couple of things in particular strike me as odd about the case.

First of all, gun crime in Khartoum is extremely rare.

Secondly, it seems a bit much to shot someone for winning lots of money at poker, even if there had been a big argument afterwards. How much did he win? A million? Two million? Somehow, I doubt it. What amount of money would ‘justify’ murder? (Since writing this, I have been told, by a friend of John’s, that no poker game took place that evening and this was just a rumour that had been put around – by whom, I wonder. Apparently, there are photos of the evening, which I am trying to get hold of).

Thirdly, if Islamic fundamentalists were responsible, why target someone as innocuous as John Granville late at night on the streets of Khartoum? Hardly making a big anti-Western statement. Surely it would have been much punchier had they threatened to bomb the US embassy, or planted some explosives at the International Club (formerly the American Club). It doesn’t sound like a particularly well thought-out strategy.

Finally, why has the White House kept so silent about John Granville, when the murder of US officials elsewhere has been widely publicised? At my last check, they hadn’t even released an official statement on this (though a White House spokesman had fielded a couple of questions during a briefing in Washington).

I was speaking to a good friend of mine the other day, with some insight into USAID operations, and he went into much detail about how USAID is often used as a cover for secret operations within a country. In this way, I guess it has rather replaced the CIA’s indiscreet covert activities, which have somewhat fallen out of fashion in this globalised, anti-American world.

Now, I would hesitate to label John Granville as a CIA operative, especially when a close friend of his assures me that, knowing John as he knew John, this would just be unthinkable. So the thoughts given above are merely the ramblings of a journalist eager to figure out exactly what is going on, which no one really seems to know at the moment. Let’s be frank here – the murder of anybody is a tragedy, especially if the victim was just a regular guy carrying out his official duties. My sincere sympathies go out to his friends and family.

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