SPLA shoots UN helicopter; Russia asks South Sudan for action

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December 22, 2012

Moscow, Russia

The Russian Government is quick in reacting to the Friday incident on downing a helicopter belonging to the United Nations in which four Russian crew members died. The incident occurred in Likuangole area. The Mi-8 helicopter belongs to a Russian charted airline company Nizhnevartovskavia and was given to the United Nations on contract.

UN sources said that the helicopter and the crew are deployed for reconnaissance mission in an area where the South Sudan Army, the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), is fighting rebels led by David Yau Yau.

"Earlier today, at approximately 10am South Sudan time, UNMISS reported that one of its MI-8 helicopters with four crew members on board was shot down," Eduardo del Buey, UN Deputy Spokesperson, said.

SPLA sources first denied and said the rebels might have downed the helicopter but later retracted it statement and said the incident happened by accident because they believed it is a Sudanese helicopter supplying rebels to the eastern part of the Jonglei region.

“We regret the incident,” an army spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer is reported to have said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry termed the incident a ‘tragic occurrence’ and named the four victims who are on their U.N. peacekeeping mission. They asked the United Nations and the host nation to take additional steps to see that incidents like these never recur.

The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, strongly condemned the attack on the “clearly marked” helicopter.

UN Spokesperson Kieran Dwyer said that incident area is secured so as to complete a thorough investigation. "We immediately dispatched a search and rescue operation by air and we found the smoking remains of that helicopter. We've since confirmed that all four crew members on board were killed."

UNMISS is the United Nations Mission in South Sudan.

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