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Sudan: Some 30 die after vice president killed in helicopter crash

Published August 1st, 2005 - 06:22 GMT

Some 30 people were killed when thousands of southern Sudanese clashed with police in Khartoum Monday following the death of John Garang, a former rebel leader, police officers and witnesses said.


Garang, the Sudanese vice president, died in a helicopter crash. He was a key figure in a peace deal between the predominantly Arab Muslim government and the Christian south.


According to The AP, Ugandan and Sudanese forces had been looking for John Garang's helicopter since Sunday and Uganda's president said it had crashed in bad weather in the border region between the two states.


Search teams had reached the crash site Monday and found a body they believed was that of Garang, a U.N. official in Khartoum said.


Garang's absence would be a heavy blow to the January peace accord that marked the end of a 21-year civil war between the mostly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south in which some 2 million people were killed.


The 60-year-old former rebel, who was sworn in as vice president just three weeks ago, left on a flight from Uganda for southern Sudan at 5:30 p.m. Ugandan time Saturday afternoon, Sudanese and Ugandan officials said.


His helicopter had attempted to land in the New Kush region of southern Sudan but aborted the landing because of bad weather and headed back south, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said early Monday.


From Sudan, there were contradictory reports over the helicopter disappearance. Sudanese state television reported Sunday night that Garang's craft had landed safely, but Communications Minister Abdel-Basit Sabdarat went on TV hours later to reject this report.


Garang was sworn in as vice president on July 9. He and President Omar el-Bashir were to work on setting up a power-sharing government and on elevating Garang's rebel troops to an equal status with the Sudanese military.


His arrival in Khartoum on July 8 to take the vice president's post brought millions of southerners and northerners to the streets in celebration.


On Monday, Vice President, Government of Southern Sudan and Deputy Chairman of Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) Cdr Salva Kiir Mayardit issued a press statement in Nairobi, saying that Sudan had lost its "beloved son." He said "we also want to assure everyone that the Leadership and all Cadres of the SPLM/SPLA will remain united and strive to faithfully implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)."


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