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US experts arrive in Kenya to assist in probe of Garang crash


NAIROBI, Aug 8 (AFP) — A team of US aviation experts has arrived in Kenya and will soon travel to Sudan to assist in the probe of last month’s helicopter crash that killed Sudanese vice president John Garang, the US embassy here said Monday.

A southern Sudanese woman cries at the site where former rebel leader and vice president John Garag was buried yesterday in the southern capital of Juba, Aug 7, 2005. (AFP).

The five-strong team from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived in Nairobi on Sunday and is expected to depart shortly to join the investigation being conducted jointly by the Sudanese government and Garang’s ex-rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), it said.

"The group is here, they arrived yesterday, but they haven’t worked out a final schedule yet," an embassy official told AFP. "They will be investigating the crash as the NTSB does and has done in other incidents like this."

The team is headed by senior investigator Dennis Jones, who has participated in accident investigations in Sudan twice before, the Washington-based NTSB said, adding that its findings would be made public by Sudanese officials.

"All information on the progress of the investigation will be released by (Sudan’s) Government of National Unity," it said in a statement issued last week.

Garang and 13 others were killed on July 30 when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s Russian-built Mi-172 helicopter in which they were returning to southern Sudan from Uganda crashed in the hills of southern Sudan.

Khartoum, the SPLM, Garang’s widow and foreign diplomats have all said the crash was an accident due most likely to poor weather and visibility and possible pilot error.

But on Friday, Museveni said the cause was unclear and could have been the result of "an external factor," suggesting for the first time that the crash might have been due to foul play.

The death of Garang, who was buried before tens of thousands of mourners in southern Sudan on Saturday, sparked riots and deadly clashes between northern Sudanese Muslim Arabs and mainly Christian and animist southerners.

Many in the south believe Garang was assassinated and the violence has raised fears that the landmark January peace deal that ended Sudan’s 21-year north-south civil war may unravel.

To quell suspicion in the south, Sudanese President Omar el-Beshir has formed a panel to investigate the crash and announced that all results will be made public.

In addition to the Sudanese and NTSB aviation experts, the probe team will include officials from Kenya, Uganda, Britain, Russia and the United Nations.

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