UN chopper downed in South Sudan, 4 Russians dead

December 22, 2012 9:50 am 

KHARTOUM, Dec. 22 — A United Nations helicopter was downed in South Sudan on Friday, killing all four Russian crew members on board, a source at the Russian embassy in Khartoum told RIA Novosti.

“The helicopter was most likely downed during takeoff,” said the source.

The UN said in a statement that the helicopter was shot down while on a reconnaissance flight in the eastern state of Jonglei, citing "initial reports" that the aircraft had “crashed and burned.”

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was established in July 2011 when South Sudan gained its independence, becoming the newest country in the world, because the UN Security Council concluded that the situation there could pose risks to international security.

South Sudan’s army has been fighting rebel forces in Jonglei, including in the region where the helicopter was downed, since early December.

The UN said in a statement that UNMISS had been informed by South Sudan’s armed forces, known as the SPLA, that they had shot at a helicopter near the settlement of Likuangole, around the area where the UN chopper was downed. However, Reuters cited SPLA spokesman Kella Kueth as saying, "The SPLA did not shoot down the helicopter. Rebels of [David] Yau Yau shot it down."

According to a Russian defense source, the Russian-built Mi-8 helicopter belonged to a Russian company, Nizhnevartovskavia. The embassy source said it had been chartered by the UN for UNMISS. (PNA/RIA Novosti)

LAM/PJN

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