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 spokesman, was quoted by state news agency SUNA as saying.Seven military men including officers were "martyred" in the crash, it said, but two people survived and were receiving treatment at a military hospital.
The report did not identify 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 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.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 recent fighting, Sudanese military aircraft bombed a village in the Tawila area about 50 kilometres (31 miles) west of El Fasher, the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA said on Monday, citing a July 8 report by UN peacekeepers.
London-based watchdog Amnesty International said in February that 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.
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide allegedly committed in Darfur.His Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein is also wanted by the ICC.Foreign journalists require special permits to visit Darfur, but these are rarely granted.
- Saturday May 25th