x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Sudan plane crash kills 32, including politicians and generals

Minister and military chiefs among the dead in Eid tragedy.

KHARTOUM // A cabinet minister was among 32 politicians, generals and other people killed yesterday when a plane crashed on its way to Sudan's war-torn South Kordofan state for the start of Eid Al Fitr, state media said.

"All people on board were killed" as the aircraft flew in for the Eid holidays, said Abdelhafiz Abdelrahim, a spokesman for the Sudan Aviation Authority.

The official Suna news agency said the most senior official among the dead was Ghazi Al Saddiq, Khartoum's guidance and endowments minister, tasked with religious affairs. There were 26 passengers and six crew on board, it added.

Speaking on official Radio Omdurman, the culture and information minister, Ahmed Bilal Osman, said the plane had "crashed into a hill" because of bad weather, killing the entire delegation.

Mr Abdelrahim said that the Antonov aircraft had been landing in Talodi town at about 8:00am when "an explosion was heard and the plane was destroyed".

Accidents are common among Sudan's ageing fleet of aircraft. Europe has banned all Sudanese airlines for safety reasons.

At least 30 people died when a Sudan Airways jet burst into flames after landing in Khartoum in 2008.

Several small airlines in Sudan use pilots from the former Soviet Union. It was not immediately clear which company operated the crashed plane.

Suna said six crew members died in the crash but it gave neither their names nor their nationalities. The other victims included two leading officials - Khartoum's state minister for youth and sport and the state minister of tourism - as well as the education minister for the Khartoum area, Suna said.

Ten victims, including three generals, were from the security forces, it added.

Also killed was the chief of the small Justice political party, a correspondent for state television, three others identified as being from the media, the head of Khartoum North municipality, a member of parliament, and other officials.

Although there have been no reports of major fighting around Talodi in recent weeks, the town has been a key battleground in the war between the government and ethnic rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), which began in June 2011.

Rebel spokesman Arnu Ngutulu Lodi said that his forces had nothing to do with the crash, which happened outside rebel territory.

"It is a government area," he said.

The town, about 50 kilometres from the disputed border with South Sudan, sits on a partly-forested plain beneath craggy hills.

Heavy rain have been reported in South Kordofan recently.

The dead minister, Mr Al Saddiq, took on the guidance and endowments portfolio, the duties of which include religious issues, in a July cabinet reshuffle that trimmed the number of ministries.

Prior to that, he had been minister of tourism and antiquities since December.