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Sudan Copter Crash Kills 32

Sunday, 19 Aug 2012 10:38 AM


KHARTOUM, Sudan -- A Sudanese helicopter carrying a government delegation crashed in a mountainous southern region on Sunday, killing all 32 people on board including a Cabinet minister, a former presidential adviser, two generals and a TV crew.

The delegation was travelling aboard a chartered helicopter to the volatile South Kordofan state to attend prayers on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The helicopter went down "due to harsh weather conditions" in mountains near Talodi, a small town about 400 miles southwest of the capital, Khartoum, state-run news agency SUNA said.

A Sudanese official said the aircraft slammed into a mountain just before it was to land in Talodi, as seasonal heavy rains in the region left the pilots with "zero visibility." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

He said a search team that reached the site of the crash was having trouble identifying the victims as many bodies had been charred and torn to pieces.

The office of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir released a list of all 26 passengers and six crew members who perished in the crash.

Minister of Endowment (religious affairs) Ghadi al-Sadeq and a former adviser to al-Bashir, Makki Balayela, were on the list, as were the two generals and other officials. A four-member TV crew from Sudan's state television also died in the crash. Reuters reported that Mahjoub Abdel Raheem Toutou, the state's minister for youth and sports, and Eissa Daifallah, the state's minister for tourism, antiquities and wildlife, also were aboard.

Sudan has a poor aviation safety record, with a large number of jet accidents occurring on landing. In late 2010, a plane carrying 36 people crashed on landing in Sudan's western Darfur region, killing at least two people.

And in May 2008 — before South Sudan became a separate country — a plane crash in a remote area in the south killed 24 people, including key members of the regional southern Sudanese government.

Five years earlier, a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 en route from Port Sudan to Khartoum crashed soon after takeoff, killing all 115 people on board.

Oil-producing South Kordofan borders South Sudan, which seceded in July last year. An insurgency broke out in South Kordofan shortly before South Sudan's independence.

The Sudanese government accused rebels of killing a state official and seven other people there in July, but there was no indication the insurgents were involved in the plane crash.

A spokesman for the main rebel group in the area, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement North, told Reuters that they had nothing to do with the incident.









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