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Sudan's struggling government loses top officials in plane crash

Two generals, the Minister of Endowment, and a former adviser to President Omar al-Bashir were among the 32 people who died Sunday.

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President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends an annual Ramadan breakfast event organized by Sudan's Copts for Muslims in Khartoum July 30. A former adviser to the president, along with about 30 others, were killed in a helicopter crash Sunday.

Mohamed Nureldin/Reuters

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A Sudanese helicopter carrying a government delegation crashed in a mountainous southern region on Sunday, killing all 32 people on board including a Cabinet minister, a former presidential adviser, two generals, and a TV crew.

The delegation was travelling aboard a chartered helicopter to the volatile South Kordofan state to attend prayers on the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

The helicopter went down "due to harsh weather conditions" near Talodi, a small town about 406 miles southwest of the capital, Khartoum, state-run news agency SUNA said.

A Sudanese official said the aircraft slammed into a mountain just before it was to land in Talodi, as seasonal heavy rains in the region left the pilots with "zero visibility." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

He said a search team that reached the site of the crash was having trouble identifying the victims as many bodies had been charred and torn to pieces.

The office of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir released a list of all 26 passengers and six crew members who perished in the crash.

Minister of Endowment Ghadi al-Sadeq and a former adviser to President al-Bashir, Makki Balayela, were on the list, as were the two generals and other officials. A four-member TV crew from Sudan's state television also died in the crash.

Sudan has a poor aviation safety record, with a large number of jet accidents occurring on landing. In late 2010, a plane carrying 36 people crashed on landing in Sudan's western Darfur region, killing at least two people.

And in May 2008 — before South Sudan became a separate country — a plane crash in a remote area in the south killed 24 people, including key members of the regional southern Sudanese government.

Five years earlier, a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 en route from Port Sudan to Khartoum crashed soon after takeoff, killing all 115 people on board.


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