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Page last updated at 04:43 GMT, Saturday, 3 May 2008 05:43 UK

Engine fault 'caused Sudan crash'

Defence Minister Dominic Dim Deng (Copyright: The Sudan Tribune www.sudantribune.com)
The defence minister was on board with a military delegation (Photo: Sudan Tribune)

Engine failure has been blamed for a plane crash in which South Sudan's defence minister was killed along with at least 22 other people.

"Two engines failed and there was nothing the pilot could do," said Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan.

Mr Kiir announced three days of mourning in southern Sudan.

Defence Minister Dominic Dim Deng had been flying with a military delegation to the regional capital, Juba. A presidential adviser was also killed.

The UN, which sent a helicopter to the site of the crash, said the plane was a Beechcraft 1900 operated by South Sudan Air Connection that had been travelling from Wau to Juba.

Officials said an investigation into the crash would be opened.

Philip Yona Jambi, South Sudan's rural development minister, said that the pilot asked permission to make a crash landing in Rumbek after reporting engine trouble.

"Unfortunately they couldn't make it to Rumbek - the plane just blew up and all passengers died," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa.

He said passengers on board included Mr Deng and his wife, senior presidential adviser Justin Yak and his wife, and other senior military officials.

Garang crash

The BBC's Amber Henshaw in Sudan says the incident will bring back memories of the death of South Sudan's first leader, John Garang, who was killed in a helicopter crash three years ago.

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His widow called his death an assassination, despite an official probe that blamed pilot error.

Mr Garang died shortly after a 2005 peace deal which ended decades of civil war between the ethnic African south and the Arab-dominated government in Khartoum.

Mr Jambi said that the news had shocked many southern Sudanese.

"People are very worried and those who have heard about it will suspect foul play because John Garang died in a crash and they still don't believe the results of the investigation," he said.


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