(WASHINGTON) — Sudanese authorities say they have captured an Israeli spy in the town of Kereinek, but Israeli authorities have cast doubt on the claim, noting that the alleged Mossad agent is covered in feathers and weighs less than 30 pounds.
Officials in the North African country are calling a large bird captured late last week an “Israeli spy vulture,” according to Middle Eastern media reports.
The online edition of the Egyptian daily El Balad said the raptor was fitted with solar-powered equipment that can broadcast information, including satellite images. The report states a GPS tracker was also installed.
Iran’s Press TV reported that the Sudanese security services believe the vulture was dispatched on its mission from Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. The vulture allegedly sports a leg-band with the school’s logo and a Hebrew label that reads “Israeli Nature Service.”
An ecologist from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority told the Israeli news site YNet that the bird was being tracked for the purpose of studying migration patterns. Vultures typically fly south in the winter. “This is a young vulture that was tagged, along with 100 others, in October. He has two wing bands and a German-made GPS chip,” said Ohad Hazofe. He denied that the device had any photographic capabilities.
“This is equipment that can give out distance and altitude readings only,” Hatzofe said. “That’s the only way we knew something had happened to the bird — all of a sudden it stopped flying and started traveling on the ground.”
Tensions between Israel and Sudan are high after an airstrike on a Sudanese munitions depot near the capital of Khartoum in October. The nation’s radar defenses were jammed before the weapons manufacturing compound was leveled, leaving two people dead.
Sudan accused Israel of mounting the raid, but Israel has remained tight-lipped on the subject. The depot was said to be supplying weapons to Hamas.
This is not the first time that governments in the region have insisted that animals tracked by Israeli scientists were actually non-human assets of the Israel military or intelligence services.
After a series of Sinai shark attacks in 2010, Egypt suggested the assaults were the work of Mossad. In 2011, spying allegations surfaced that a griffon vulture was found with “spying equipment” and a “Tel Aviv University” leg band in Saudi Arabia.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Angela Dewan and Max Blau, CNN
Juliet Perry, Tim Hume and Livia Borghese, CNN
Kareem Khadder, CNN