South Sudan shoots down UN helicopter, claims it was accidental

Saturday, December 22, 2012 - 3:00am

The South Sudanese armed forces admitted shooting down a United Nations helicopter in eastern South Sudan on Friday.

The Sudan People's Liberation Army said it was an accident, according to spokesman Philip Aguer.

Four crew members were killed, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan said. The group reported that there were no passengers on board.

Aguer said that a craft was seen about 9 a.m. hovering near an SPLA command area. The army asked the U.N. mission whether it had sent a plane.

"The U.N. said there is no plane, they don't have plane in the area," Aguer said.

The troops thought the aircraft looked to be the type that had dropped munition to militias in the area, he said.

Aguer was unable to specify what was used to down the helicopter except that "anti-aircraft weapons" were used.

The helicopter was an MI-8, the U.N. mission said, and it went down near the settlement of Likuangole, in the state of Jonglei, in the country's east.

The mission is investigating the incident.

The helicopter had been on a reconnaissance flight about 10 a.m. local time, according to the U.N. mission.

Initial reports Friday indicated that the aircraft had crashed.

The mission launched a search and recovery effort that confirmed the crew members' deaths, it said.

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