By Wasil Ali
May 26, 2008 (WASHINGTON) — A MIG-29 fighter Jet was shot down killing its Russian pilot during the Darfur rebel assault on the Sudanese capital earlier this month, a Russian radio station said today.
- Russian MIG-29 fighter Jet
The independent Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy quoted a man by the name of Vladimir as saying that a colleague of his in Sudan told him that “a flight instructor flying a MIG-29 was shot down from a large-caliber machine-gun during this fighting [Darfur rebel attack]”.
The Darfur Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) fighters mounted an assault on the Sudanese capital on May 10th that took the government and international community by surprise. However the Sudanese government managed to repulse the attack and accused Chad of backing JEM in its attempt.
Vladimir said the slain pilot was a flight instructor training the Sudanese pilots on flying the MIG-29 fighter jets. In 2004 Khartoum said that Moscow supplied them with a dozen MIG-29’s.
The report by the Russian radio comes almost two weeks after Sudanese authorities closed down the Arabic language Alwan newspaper for publishing news on a Russian fighter jet and its Russian pilot, who went missing after the attack by JEM.
“The rumor about the missing MIG-29 belonging to the armed forces during the incidents in Omdurman got no confirmation or denial from the government or JEM even though everybody is looking at the sky and inquiring about the fate of the fighter jet and the Russian pilot” was the text published in the newspaper that triggered the crackdown by Sudanese security.
The pro-government Sudanese Media Center (SMC) website have said that Salah Gosh, the head of Sudan’s National Security and Intelligence Service issued a decree suspending the publication of the newspaper and ordered a freeze on its properties and assets while filing a police complaint against its editor in Chief Hussein Khogali.
SMC said that the decree was issued because Alwan “disclosed sensitive military information harmful to the country’s security and its accomplishments”.
The Ekho Moskvy radio also quoted Vladimir as saying that the flight instructor managed to eject after his plane was shot by JEM rebels “but the parachute failed to open and the pilot died”.
Vladimir did not provide the pilot’s name but said that “he was from the Ryazan higher military academy”.
The radio station also contacted the Russian Defense Ministry which denied the report and quoted its spokesman as saying that “if something like this had happened we would have received relevant documents. If we don’t have them, nothing has happened”.
The defense ministry also said they have no intention of checking on the report of the MIG-29 fighter in Sudan or the fate of its pilot.
Russia and Sudan have mainianted strong military ties. In October 2006 the Russian electronic newspaper published in English Kommersant, said that Khartoum asked Moscow to provide the Sudanese army with modern weapons and train local specialists to work with new technology.
The newspaper said that the Sudanese President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir sent a letter to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, asking to sell a large consignment of military jets and helicopters to his country.
Last year Russia was accused by Amnesty International (AI) supplying arms to Sudan for use in Darfur in breach of a UN arms embargo per resolution 1591. But the Russian foreign ministry denied the charge.
AI said that in 2005 Russia sold $21m of military material to Sudan.