Seven Sudanese military personnel were killed and two wounded after their helicopter crashed in the western Darfur region yesterday.
The helicopter went down near the town of El Fasher, the state capital of North Darfur, “due to a technical fault while it was on an administrative mission,” according to Sawarmi Khaled Saad, the Sudanese army spokesman, who was quoted by state news agency SUNA. Three officers and four soldiers were killed in the accident while two people survived and were taken to a military hospital.
It is believed that the crashed helicopter was an Mi-17. Sudan recently acquired nine Mi-17V-5 and one Mi-172 helicopters.
The military said the helicopter was on an ‘administrative mission’, but the Sudan Tribune quotes Adam Saleh Abakr, Sudan Liberation Movement – Minnin Minnawi (SLM-MM) spokesperson as saying that his group shot down the helicopter. He claimed that rebel troops downed the aircraft as it was attacking a village.
Amnesty International said in February that the government has attacked civilian and military targets during the fighting in Darfur using Su-25 attack jets, Mi-24 attack helicopters and Antonov transport aircraft converted for bombing.
Amnesty said that Sudan received 36 new Mi-24 helicopters from Russia between 2007 and 2009, which “undoubtedly” compensates for those lost during Darfur operations in 2011.
A number of Sudanese aircraft have been lost over the last couple of years, primarily due to what the government claims are technical failures.
In April last year another helicopter crashed in Darfur killing all five soldiers aboard. The aircraft had been attempting to land at El Fasher airport. On December 30, 2011, a Sudanese military helicopter crashed in North Kordofan, killing all six crew members on board. A Sudanese military spokesman said the helicopter went down about three minutes after taking off from the El-Obeid airport because of a technical problem.
In mid-March, insurgents in one of Sudan’s conflict-torn border regions said they shot down a government drone doing reconnaissance in rebel-held territory, but the army said the aircraft crashed because of a technical failure. The Sudanese Revolutionary Front, an alliance of diverse rebels who want to overthrow Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, said they shot down the aircraft on March 13 in the Jau area. Jau is a disputed territory on the poorly-drawn boundary between Sudan’s South Kordofan state and South Sudan, which seceded in July under a 2005 peace deal. The Sudanese government acknowledged the loss of the aircraft, but claimed it was on a training mission and went down due to a ‘technical failure’.