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South Sudanese rebels deny shooting down UN helicopter in Unity state

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August 26, 2014 (KAMPALA) – South Sudanese rebels have denied allegations its forces shot down a UN helicopter near the capital of oil-rich Unity state on Tuesday.

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A UN-contracted Mi-8 helicopter very similar to this crashed in South Sudan’s Unity state on 26 August 2014, killing three Russian crew members on board (AP)

In an interview Voice of America on Tuesday, the spokesperson for the South Sudanese army (SPLA), Col. Philip Aguer, accused rebels under commander of Maj.Gen Peter Gatdet of bringing down the Mi-8 helicopter at Tong, about 10km south of Bentiu, killing three Russian crew members on board.

However, rebel brigadier-general Lul Ruai Koang dismissed the claims as government propaganda, denying the opposition faction had any involvement.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has confirmed the helicopter crashed and has launched an investigation into what caused the incident.

ALLEGATIONS “UNFOUNDED”

Koang said the SPLA’s rush to lay blame on rebel forces on the ground in Unity state was premature, describing the allegations as “unfounded and baseless”, saying UNMISS had made very clear statements on what occurred.

The rebel faction has called for UNMISS to conduct a full investigation of the circumstances which led to the chopper crash.

“We pledge a full cooperation with the investigation team once formed,” said Koang.

The helicopter, which was contracted from a Russian company, was on a routine cargo flight from Wau in Western Bahr El Ghazal state to Bentiu, when contact was lost at 2.28pm (local time), a UN spokesperson has confirmed.

UNMISS subsequently dispatched a search and rescue team to the site of the incident.

The sole surviving crew member has received treatment from Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Bentiu.

POLITICAL POINT SCORING

In a separate statement issued from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the rebel faction said it empathised with the families of those who perished as a result of the unfortunate event, accusing the government of using the incident to gain political leverage.

“The SPLM/SPLA [in Opposition] would like to take this opportunity to refute these malicious allegations levelled by the propaganda machine of the Government of the Republic of South Sudan (GRSS),” said the statement, which bore the signature of Mabior Garang de Mabior, the chairperson of the committee for information and public relations.

According to the statement, rebel commanders in the field reported hearing a loud explosion near Rubkona airstrip and upon investigation found that an aircraft had crashed.

“The area in which the plane was reportedly shot down is government-held territory, if indeed the aircraft was shot down. It is unfortunate that the GRSS propaganda machine is trying to capitalise on this unfortunate event to score political points,” the statement adds.

UN EXTENDS CONDOLENCES

Toby Lanzer, the officer-in-charge of UNMISS, also extended his sympathies to the families of the deceased crew members following the incident.

“I wish to convey my heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased and wish a full and speedy recovery to the injured crew member,” said Lanzer.

Opposition forces loyal to former vice-president Riek Machar have been engaged in an armed struggle with the South Sudanese government since conflict erupted in mid-December last year after a political dispute with the country’s ruling party (SPLM) turned violent.

Unity state has been a flashpoint for violence since the conflict broke out, with Bentiu changing hands several times between the warring parties.

(ST)

- Three killed in UN helicopter crash in S. Sudan’s Unity state

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  • 27 August 2014 06:57, by wang

    The SPLA thugs shot-down UN helicopter….remember; they (SPLA) shot down the very much UN helicopter last year in a Pibor County, Jonglei State

    repondre message

    • 27 August 2014 07:00, by wang

      The SPLA thugs shot-down UN helicopter….remember; they (SPLA) shot down the very much same UN helicopter last year in a Pibor County, Jonglei State

      repondre message

    • 27 August 2014 07:11, by Mi diit

      Two scenarios:

      1)The UN helicopter might have crashed on grounds of technical failure.

      2)Kiir’s government shot it down and blame it on rebels in order to use it as an accusation to punish the rebels. That area is controlled by government forces. Kiir’s SPLA also shot down UNMISS helicopter in Jonglei in 2012.

      repondre message

      • 27 August 2014 07:22, by Mi diit

        That crazy and bias American professor called Eric Reeves writes nonsense. He rushes to conclusions without giving chance for investigations. We know he has been on sale as government publicist and propaganda machine, just selling his damn soul for money to write trash!

        repondre message

        • 27 August 2014 07:36, by Mi diit

          Another point is that the pilot might have panicked in the area and lost control of the plane.

          Remember that Kiir’s coward military colonel died of heart attack few days ago after getting too frightened when he saw the rebels during their failed spy mission in Unity state.

          We need to study all those!!!

          repondre message

          • 27 August 2014 13:33, by michael coma

            Miidit

            The colonel as you put it was removed from detention by rebels and killed through hot oil in his ears and then brought back as dead body.

            repondre message

    • 27 August 2014 07:40, by Madina Tonj

      There is no doubt, the rebel will take responsible for UN Helicopter crash or shot down in Unity State. There was incident in Upper Nile State when the rebel had detains IGAD team monitors and they beat them up until one dies. The rebels are always assuming maybe that UN helicopter is carrying SPLA and this could be the reason for rebels of Riek Machar to shot down UN transportation Helicopter

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    • 27 August 2014 13:24, by michael coma

      Wang

      The Plane was shot down in my present by rebels when we were at ambush waiting some rebels elements.Gatdet must take responsibility at this time.

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  • 27 August 2014 06:59, by Thondet Manyang

    You shot it down don’t deny the trust while you divided rebels who never respect the gorilla war ethic. So, the untrained Nuer rebels want to test the weaponry provided by their father Bashir. You will not have international legacy. What Mabior’s signature you’ve been talking about and he was already arrested. Stop lying! You kill those crew members we are watching you. There are many mistakes....

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  • 27 August 2014 07:09, by Thondet Manyang

    Cont.... You committing you will regret soon. Can Dr. Fool Riek(disaster) be president in this country? Keeping killing international people in Akobo last year and today Unity but you will bear the consequences. Stupid tribe without principle. Your pride of braveness brings nothing to your land but only destabilization. No country for one tribe please!

    repondre message

    • 27 August 2014 07:18, by Thondet Manyang

      Wang,
      Why are you repeating same sentence when posting your comments is the really education you have? You better have gone back to school so as you improve your English capacity. What you people know is to robe and deny won enrich you.

      repondre message

  • 27 August 2014 09:05, by Paac

    Wang
    It could be one of the nuer general who order the shot down the UN helicopter because they are the one who impound UN helicopter and detained couple UN worker lately this week. The rebels accused UN and mediator or IGAD of spying for the SPLA, NUER people are mindless and DENKA people are greedy and stupid.

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    • 27 August 2014 09:42, by Malakal county Simon

      Rebels are innocent!!!!!The Helicopter was shot in government control area which mean the government is responsible for the incident!!

      repondre message

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