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Africa

Rebels 'shoot down' UN helicopter in South Sudan

© Hannah McNeish, AFP file picture | A UN helicopter delivers food in South Sudan.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2014-08-26

A South Sudanese rebel commander who warned the United Nations not to fly over his territory shot down a UN helicopter Tuesday, charged a spokesman for a state governor.

The UN confirmed that three people died and one survived - all Russian citizens - when one of its helicopters crashed. The UN said it is investigating the cause.

The UN mission said that an Mi-8 cargo helicopter crashed near Bentiu, a hotly contested area between the government and rebel fighters.

South Sudanese rebel commander Peter Gadet had warned the UN last week not to fly over his territory, said the spokesman for the governor of Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state, Akol Ayom Wek. Gadet’s forces shot down the helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, said Wek.

South Sudan has seen widespread violence since December between rebels loyal to former Vice President Riek Machar and government soldiers loyal to President Salva Kiir.

The helicopter’s downing comes one day after the two warring sides signed an agreement in Ethiopia to work toward a permanent ceasefire and form a national unity government within 45 days.

‘No control’ over rebels

Wek, who serves in a region loyal to Kiir, said the shoot-down by Gadet confirms that Machar has no control over him and other rebel fighters and commanders, calling into question Machar’s role in negotiations as leader of the rebels.

Gadet, Wek said, was also responsible for impounding a UN helicopter over the weekend that was carrying a six-member verification team from the regional bloc called IGAD. One member of that team died while being held of natural causes.

Elsewhere in South Sudan, Wek said that the son of deceased South Sudan rebel leader John Garang was arrested in Ethiopia after being discovered at a reception at Kiir’s hotel with a loaded gun. Wek said that during interrogation Mabior Garang said he wanted to confront Kiir for destroying his father’s legacy, suggesting that Garang may have intended to carry out an assassination attempt.

Ethiopian officials couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. A rebel spokesman, Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, denied the accusation that Garang planned to kill Kiir. Koang said Garang is also not being detained.

(AP)

Date created : 2014-08-26

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