KHARTOUM (AFP) - Armed men raided the offices of a Sudanese newspaper on Saturday evening and severely beat the chief editor who had called for normalisation of ties with Israel, a colleague said.
The violence against Osman Mirghani, chief editor of the Al-Tayar daily, was an unusual physical attack against a journalist in Sudan, although reporters regularly complain of censorship by the National Intelligence and Security Service.
Mr Mirghani was admitted to Al-Zaytouna Hospital in downtown Khartoum after "they just started beating him in his head, in his leg, using the guns and the sticks," Mr Faisal Mohamed Salih, an award-winning Sudanese journalist and press freedom advocate, told AFP.
Mr Ibrahim Ghandour, top assistant to President Omar al-Bashir, visited Mr Mirghani and told journalists that the editor was unconscious, Mr Salih said.
Speaking from the hospital and citing information from Al-Tayar reporters, Mr Salih said about seven gunmen drove up to the newspaper's office just before the evening iftar meal when Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
"They ordered the journalists to lay down. They collected all the mobile phones and the laptops. They cut all the computer connections," before turning on Mr Mirghani in his office, said Mr Salih, who won the 2013 Peter Mackler Award for Courageous and Ethical Journalism. "The way they behaved, they were very organised."
The attack occurred just a few days after Mr Mirghani called on local TV for Islamist Sudan to normalise relations with Israel, Mr Salih said.
Mr Mirghani's comments came during an Israeli military assault on the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza strip. The operation saw one of its bloodiest days Saturday, and the Palestinian death toll rose to 343 after 12 days.
Israeli officials have long accused Sudan of serving as a base of support for Hamas militants.
Mr Bashir earlier this month met in the Gulf nation of Qatar with Mr Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas chief.
Al-Tayar was allowed to resume publishing in March after a ban of nearly two years.
But on July 5, national security agents seized the daily print run of the newspaper, a tactic often used against publications.
Mr Salih said the attack against Mr Mirghani, though unusual, is "a real threat to media freedom and journalists in general. And also it is an indicator that maybe no one can guarantee the security of the journalists anymore."
Sudan ranked near the bottom, at 170 out of 179, in the Reporters Without Borders 2013 World Press Freedom Index.