By NICHOLAS BARIYO
KAMPALA Uganda—A chartered helicopter carrying a Sudanese government minister and two army generals crashed Sunday over Sudan’s restive South Kordofan state, killing all 32 people on board, officials said.
An official with Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority, who declined to be named, blamed the crash on bad weather. He said the helicopter hit a mountain in the Nuba region.
The Nuba Mountains also are where Sudanese government forces are battling rebels of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N.
There are no indications that the helicopter came under attack, according to Rabie Abdelaty, Sudan’s government spokesman. He declined to reveal the identities of the dead officials, but said, “the information I have is that the all the people on board died in the crash.”
In March, the rebels claimed responsibility for shooting down a Sudanese military drone. although Sudan said the drone crashed after developing technical problems.
Sudan’s state news agency, SUNA, reported that among the dead were Ghazi Al-Saddiq, a Sudanese minister in charge of guidance and endowments. The helicopter was carrying a delegation of government and military officials to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim religious festival marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The SPLM-N rebels have bases in the Nuba Mountains and have battled Sudanese government forces since July last year. The rebels fought alongside the South Sudanese military in the two-decade war with Sudan.
Following South Sudan’s secession last year, the SPLM-N became a rebel group after the regions it used to operate in remained in Sudan. Sudan accuses South Sudan of backing the rebels, an accusation denied by South Sudan.
Earlier this year, the rebels abducted 29 Chinese construction workers. The workers were later released following talks mediated by South Sudan.
The presence of SPLM-N in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states remains a major sticking point in the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan. A deal on how much landlocked South Sudan should pay to transport its crude through Sudanese ports and pipelines agreed earlier this month remains in limbo after Sudan insisted that it needs to first sort out security issues along the border states, where it is battling multiple rebel groups, allegedly backed by South Sudan.
In January, South Sudan halted its 350,000 barrels-a-day oil output, throwing the economies of both states in turmoil.
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Category: World News