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The BBC's Caroline Hawley
"There were no reports of fighting in the area"
 real 56k

Thursday, 5 April, 2001, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
'No foul play' in Sudan crash
President Omar el-Bashir
The news is a blow to President Omar el-Bashir
The Sudanese Government has said that Wednesday's plane crash that killed the deputy defence minister and 13 high-ranking military officers was the result of bad weather.

A government spokesman ruled out the possibility that a rebel attack brought the plane down.


The accident was caused by bad weather which made the plane veer off the runway and hit a building

Presidential statement
State media said Deputy Defence Minister Colonel Ibrahim Shamsul-Din had been touring a southern military area and was heading back to Khartoum at the time of the crash.

The other dead are reported to include another colonel, nine lieutenant generals and three brigadier generals.

State-run television has described them as martyrs and called for special prayers to be held at the country's mosques on Friday.


The crash happened in Adaril in the oil-rich Upper Nile state.

A spokesman for the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) said from Nairobi that it did not shoot the plane down.

"We claim no responsibility in the area, since we have no forces there," spokesman Samson Kwaje said.

Sixteen people on the plane survived the crash, a military spokesman told AP.

Colonel Shamsul-Din backed the coup in which Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir took power in 1989.

Blow

The deaths of some of Sudan's top military officers comes at a time when the government was believed to be using its new-found oil wealth to aid in the fight against southern rebels.

Southern rebels have attacked the oil fields arguing that the government was using southern resources to fight the war.

The military remains the main power broker in Sudan, which has been embroiled in civil war for the past 18 years.

Nearly two million people have died in the conflict, which is between Sudan's Islamic government in the north and rebels fighting for increased autonomy in the predominantly Christian and animist south.

Danger

Flying in southern Sudan has been a cause of concern for the government since the SPLA acquired anti-aircraft shoulder-fired missiles.

The SPLA shot down a Sudan Airways plane in 1986 which they said was carrying military personnel.

Relief agencies delivering aid to the south obtain clearance form the SPLA before flying.

Sudan's First Vice President Zubair Mohamed Saleh died in a plane accident in 1998 in southern Sudan, when his plane skidded off the runway and fell into a river.

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See also:

21 Dec 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Sudan
29 Mar 01 | Africa
Sudan famine warning
15 Mar 01 | Africa
Oil linked to Sudan abuses
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