7 die in Sudan helicopter crash - army

2012-07-17 13:26

Khartoum - Seven Sudanese military personnel died on Monday when their helicopter crashed in conflict-plagued Darfur because of a malfunction, the military said.

The aircraft went down near El Fasher, the North Darfur state capital, "due to a technical fault while it was on an administrative mission," Sawarmi Khaled Saad, the Sudanese army spokesperson, was quoted by state news agency Suna as saying.

Seven military men including officers were "martyred" in the crash, it said, without identifying the type of helicopter.

Sudan's armed forces have experienced a number of aircraft losses.

In December, all six crewmen aboard a Russian-made military helicopter died when it crash-landed and burned in the North Kordofan state.

The army blamed a technical problem, as it did in April last year when another helicopter went down in Darfur killing all five soldiers aboard. The aircraft had been attempting to land at El Fasher airport.

Conflicting reports

Non-Arab tribes in the western region of Darfur rose up against Khartoum almost 10 years ago in a conflict that the UN estimates left at least 300 000 people dead.

Sudan puts the overall death toll at 10 000.

Violence in Darfur is much lower than at the height of the conflict in 2003 and 2004, but kidnappings, banditry and clashes between government troops and rebels still occur.

In a report in February, London-based watchdog Amnesty International said fighting in Darfur has been accompanied by a repeated pattern of airborne attacks on civilian and military targets using Sukhoi-25 jets, Mi-24 gunships and Antonov transport planes used as "rudimentary but effective bombers".

Sudan received 36 new Mi-24 helicopters from Russia between 2007 and 2009, a number which "undoubtedly" compensates for those lost during Darfur operations last year, Amnesty said.

The aircraft are among military equipment that reaches Darfur under an ineffective United Nations arms embargo, Amnesty said.