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Darfur rebels provide details on helicopter shot down

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April 29, 2007 (AL-FASHER) — Two Darfur rebel commanders said a Sudanese army helicopter was shot down in North Darfur, denouncing regular bombing of their positions in the region.

Two rebel commanders told Sudan Tribune that a Sudanese army helicopter was shot down in Umrai in northern Darfur region. Suleiman Marjan, the field commander of the Sudan Liberation Army in North Darfur and Ahmed Abdelshafi confirmed the event on Sunday.

Marjan was the first to announce the crash, while Ahmed Abdelshafi said that they arrested the pilot of the plane and gave details about his identity.

According to Abdelshafi who is the leader of a SLM faction, the pilot was the sole survivor of the crash. « His name is Muawya Hussein Mohamed, he is from al-Rahad (Kordofan), he resides currently in al-Fasher, and he is married with a woman from the capital of North Darfur.”

According to Abdelshafi the pilot is graduated in 2001 from the military aviation school in Jabait. The rebel leader reassured his family saying he would be well treated, “because he was just implementing orders.” he added.

Abdel Shafi, told Sudan Tribune the helicopter gunships which took part in the attack were participating in air strikes against their positions since one week. “The aim of these attacks is to sabotage our reunification conference” he added.

"As you know, we were preparing to a hold a conference involving other factions of the SLM to unite under one leadership to negotiate with the government. But now we decided to stop this process for the time being and we will resume later on."

But a Sudanese armed forces spokesman told Reuters in Khartoum he was not aware of any attacks, adding that a helicopter had gone missing on a reconnaissance mission after reporting a technical problem.

The armed forces spokesman said the air force had lost contact with one helicopter on a reconnaissance mission 60 km (37.5 miles) northeast of the town of Kutum in north Darfur on Sunday morning.

"The pilot reported a technical failure, then we lost contact with him," he told Reuters. "The armed forces are now conducting a search-and-rescue mission."

(ST)

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