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Friday, February 13, 1998 Published at 08:27 GMT



World: Africa

Sudan buries plane crash victims
image: [ President Omar al-Bashir attended the funeral ceremonies ]
President Omar al-Bashir attended the funeral ceremonies


Islamic prayers at the funeral (0'36")
Funeral ceremonies have been taking place in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, for the Vice President, Al-Zubair Muhammad Saleh, and others who died in a plane crash on Thursday.

President Omar al-Bashir and the National Assembly speaker, Hassan al-Turabi, were among those who accompanied the bodies of the victims to a cemetery.


[ image: The plane crashed 800km south of Khartoum]
The plane crashed 800km south of Khartoum
One of the survivors -- the Information Minister, Brigadier Mohamad Kheir -- said the plane came down because of bad weather and instrument problems.

The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army, SPLA, which is fighting the government in the south of the country has withdrawn a claim that it shot down the plane.
[ image: Al-Zubair Muhammad Saleh]
Al-Zubair Muhammad Saleh
Correspondents have described the Vice President, Al-Zubair Muhammad Saleh, as a crucial link between the Sudanese army and the National Islamic Front, the dominant political force in the country.

Officials were visiting southern front

The officials were on a visit to the war front in southern Sudan, where government forces are fighting rebels seeking autonomy for the region.

Sudanese television said the plane crashed into a river as it tried to land in bad weather near Malakal, 800 kilometres south of Khartoum.

Two government Ministers, including the Information Minister, Brigadier Mohamad Kheir, were among the survivors.

Sudanese radio broadcast a statement by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir announcing the news.

"The nation lost some of its devoted sons and leaders," the statement said.

"One of those martyred is the honourable person, the dear brother Lt Gen al-Zubair Muhammad Salih, First Vice President."

Death may affect peace accord

A correspondent for the BBC in Khartoum says the Vice President was the driving force in persuading six southern rebel factions to defect to the government side last April, and signed the peace accord on the government's behalf.

One of the rebel signatories, Arok thon Arok, died with him in the crash, as did another leading government official involved in the peace process.

The correspondent says the death of these people, coming just a week after one of the rebel leaders, Cherubino Kwanyin Bol, re-defected to the rebel cause, leaves few surviving signatories of the accord and calls its future into question.






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