Sudanese killers of US envoy `escape from prison`

The Sudanese Islamists were sentenced to hang for 2008 murder of US diplomat.

Khartoum: Four Sudanese Islamists sentenced to hang for the 2008 murder of a US diplomat have escaped from prison, a security source said on Friday.

"It`s true. The four men escaped yesterday (Thursday) from the Kober jail" in northern Khartoum, the source said, on condition of anonymity, referring to a report in the pro-government daily Al-Rai Al-Aam.

A US embassy spokesman said, "We have read those reports and are reviewing them.”

John Granville, 33, worked for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). He and his driver, Abdel Rahman Abbas, 40, were fatally shot in their car on January 01, 2008 as they returned from a New Year`s Eve celebration.

Sudanese authorities charged five young Islamists with the double murder, of whom four were handed the death penalty last year.

In line with Islamic law, the victims` families were asked whether they forgave the defendants, sought compensation from them or wanted to see the death penalty enforced.

The death sentences were first handed down in June but suspended in August after Abbas` father forgave the men. The convictions were renewed in October when both families formally called for the sentence to be carried out.

"Sudanese law does not provide for" a life sentence for murder, said Granville`s mother, Jane Granville, in a statement.

"Thus, it is with a heavy heart that I have to conclude that I am left with no other option. The death penalty is the only sentence that will protect others from those who took my beloved son`s life."

One of the four condemned men is the son of a leader of pacifist Islamist group Ansar al-Sunna, which is linked to Wahhabism -- a hardline form of Sunni Islam practised mainly in Saudi Arabia-- but is not involved in politics.

A group calling itself Ansar al-Tawhid had claimed the New Year`s Day murder according to SITE, a US-based organisation which monitors Islamist websites.

It said the murder was in response to attempts to raise the banner of Christianity over Sudan, the largest country in Africa.

Federal Bureau of Investigation officers from the United States had helped to investigate the killings, which sent shockwaves through the sizeable Western community in Khartoum, a city usually considered one of the safest in Africa.

Bureau Report