(eTN) – A delegation of high-ranking government, military, and administrative officials died when their aircraft crashed earlier today with as many as 31 passengers and crew on board. The Sudanese government’s religion minister, Minister Ghazi al-Sadiq Abdel Rahim, was one of the passengers that died in the crash.
Two State Ministers and the leader of a national political party were also among the dead. Those that perished are: Justice Party Chairman Makki Ali Balayil; Mahjub Abdel Rahim Tutu, State Minister at the Youth and Sports Ministry; Issa Daifallah, State Minister at the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife; several ranking members of the security forces; several officials from Khartoum State; media representatives; and six crew members.
The crash took place in the disputed state of South Kordofan, as it attempted a second time to land in what was reported to be bad weather.
A regular aviation source from Juba could not even confirm the type of aircraft involved, as details were both sketchy, as well as shrouded in secrecy, as a government minister and senior military officers were reported to have been on board the ill-fated flight from Khartoum. He did, however, say, without full confirmation though, that one of his contacts in Khartoum had identified the aircraft as a civilian Antonov turboprop, which if true would further soil the already terrible reputation of Soviet era ageing aircraft in Africa.
Aviation security was tightened immediately, according to reports from the Sudan, although there is no indication of any foul play or the plane being brought down from the ground in the war-torn territory, where Southern liberation groups are fighting the Khartoum government and their proxy militias, since being denied their own independence referendum.
The crash site is only 50 kilometers from the border between Khartoum Sudan and South Sudan in a mountainous part of South Kordofan often described as “rugged terrain.”
From other sources, it was suggested that the aircraft was not a military plane but a civilian charter aircraft from a yet-to-be identified airline.
The Sudan has one of the worst aviation accident records in Africa, often attributed to poor aircraft maintenance and the lack of regular crew training as required for commercial aviation, and also the use of “stone-age” generation Soviet era aircraft, which have long been banned from registration and use in many other jurisdictions.