EL FASHER, SUDAN (BNO NEWS) -- A military helicopter crashed in Sudan's troubled region of Darfur on late Monday evening, killing at least seven service members and injuring two others, officials said on Tuesday. There were conflicting reports about the cause of the crash.
The incident happened on late Monday when the Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter went down just southwest of El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur. Colonel Al Sawarmi Khalid Saad, a spokesman for the Sudanese Armed Forces, said the aircraft was on an administrative mission in the region.
The aircraft was carrying nine service members of whom seven were killed and two were injured, the spokesman said. He identified the fatalities as three officers and four non-commissioned officers. The conditions of the two service members who were injured were not immediately released.
The Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLA), a rebel group led by Minni Minnawi, claimed it shot down the helicopter as it flew in the area of Kushina village, approximately 29 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Tawilla. UN peacekeepers confirmed shooting in the area at the time, but Saad said the crash was the result of a "technical failure."
"At about the same time as the incident, our team site in Tawilla had reported heavy shooting and impacts at Kushina village," said Christopher Cycmanick, a spokesman for the United Nations - African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID). "Our peacekeepers did not witness the helicopter, nor did we see the wreckage."
In December 2011, all six people were killed when a military plane crashed about three minutes after taking off from an airport in Al-Ubayyid, the capital of North Kordofan state in southern Sudan. It followed a helicopter crash in April 2011, killing five Sudanese soldiers. Both crashes were blamed on technical failures.
(Copyright 2012 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved. Info: email@example.com.) http://wire.bnonews.com/#g58700