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Wali of El Gedaref, six others dead as helicopter crashes in eastern Sudan

December 9 - 2018 EL GALABAT
The burning wreckage of the helicopter that crashed in eastern Sudan this morning, killing the Governor of El Gedaref and six other officials (RD)
The burning wreckage of the helicopter that crashed in eastern Sudan this morning, killing the Governor of El Gedaref and six other officials (RD)

The Wali (governor) of Sudan’s El Gedaref state has died along with at least six other officials, after a helicopter they were travelling in on an official mission crashed while attempting to land in eastern Sudan this morning.

According to witnesses, the helicopter, which was carrying 11 people from El Gedaref city to the town of El Galabat, close to the Sudan-Ethiopia border, hit a communications tower as it came in to land in El Galabat, before bursting into flames.

Nearby residents reported and photographed a large pall of black smoke rising from the area.

El Gedaref Secretary-General Abdel Bela initially confirmed the incident in a statement, which was followed by an official communiqué vis the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA) from the Presidency in the national capital of Khartoum this afternoon.

Residents look-on in shock

The Presidency statement confirms that in addition to Wali Merghani Saleh, the El Gedaref Minister of Agriculture Omer Danfy, the state’s Director of Border Administration Salah Al Khabir, the Director of the Wali’s office, Majdi Hassan Al Nur, the Commander of the Fifth Brigade in the Second Division, Brigaduer Yousif Al Tayeb, Deputy-Director of Police in the state, Brig Al Nur Osman, and the Intelligence Officer of the Second Division, Major Mohieddin Al Rayah, all died in the crash.

Secretary-General Bela confirmed that other occupants of the helicopter survived and have been transferred to hospital in El Gedaref for treatment. There is no further information on their condition at this time.

Sensitive border area

El Galabat locality borders on Ethiopia and is frequently the site of tension and incursions.

The border area has seen incidents of friction between Sudanese farmers and Ethiopian Shifta militiamen for several years.

Over the past few years, the violence between armed farmers rapidly increased, with many reports of Ethiopian gangs attacking Sudanese farmers, subjecting them to extortion, and occupying their lands.

In April this year, Ethiopian farmers reportedly seized a part of an agricultural project in El Fashaga locality in El Gedaref.

Mubarak El Nour, independent MP for El Fashaga, told Radio Dabanga that Ethiopian farmers occupied 300 acres of a project owned by farmer Salman El Awad in the area of El Fashaga El Kubra.

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