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Cablegate: 9/29 Helicopter Crash - No Evidence of Small Weapons Fire

VZCZCXRO8701
OO RUEHGI RUEHMA RUEHROV
DE RUEHKH #1483 2791358
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 051358Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY KHARTOUM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2015
INFO RUCNFUR/DARFUR COLLECTIVE
RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE
RHMFISS/CJTF HOA

UNCLAS KHARTOUM 001483

DEPT FOR A/S FRAZER, SE WILLIAMSON, AF/SPG
NSC FOR PITTMAN AND HUDSON
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
DEPT PLS PASS USAID FOR AFR/SUDAN

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PGOV PREL KPKO SOCI AU UNSC SU
SUBJECT: 9/29 HELICOPTER CRASH - NO EVIDENCE OF SMALL WEAPONS FIRE

REF: A) KHARTOUM 1468
B) KHARTOUM 1387

1. (SBU) Poloff spoke with UNAMID Public Information Director Kamal
Saiki on October 5 regarding the September 29 crash of a
UNAMID-contracted helicopter, which resulted in the deaths of three
Russians and 1 Sudanese. Saiki said that UNAMID has received no
indication that the Mi-8 helicopter, contracted by UNAMID with the
Sudanese firm Badr Airways to ferry cargo within South Darfur,
crashed due to ground fire from Kalma Camp. Witness' testimonies
offer contradictory accounts of the flight's final moments, and
Saiki indicated that UNAMID intends to take a hands-off approach totheincident, given that, as he pointed out, "The only connection
between UNAMID and the helicopter is the cargo and its destination."
Saiki said that as Badr Airways is a Sudanese firm whose helicopter
crashed on Sudanese territory, the Government of Sudan's (GOS) Civil
Aviation Authority should take the lead on any investigation.

2. (SBU) In an interview published Sunday in the nominally
independent Akher Lazha newspaper, an NCP official pushed the
interpretation that the downed helicopter took fire from inside
Kalma Camp. NCP Secretary for Organizational Affairs Qutb el Mahdi
claimed that the "attack" on the helicopter has given the GOS
justification for an expedited evacuation of Kalma Camp. The
article added the incident "proves to the world that the government
of Sudan was right when it underscored the importance of its arms
collection campaign in South Darfur."

3. (SBU) Comment: The GOS is trying its best to pin the blame for
the attack on small weapons fire from Kalma Camp, but there has been
no confirmation that this claim has any basis in reality. Although
UNAMID remains passive on the issue, post plans to urge UNAMID to
become more engaged in the investigation given the apparently false
link to Kalma Camp, which could affect security within the camp and
the GOS posture toward the camp. However, Saiki is correct in
stating that the CAA will have the lead on this investigation, and
it will likely be difficult to verify exactly what transpired.
Until more information can be obtained, we would strongly caution
against any speculation suggesting a link between the helicopter
crash and alleged small weapons fire from Kalma Camp or from rebels,
as has been advanced by some countries including Russia.

ASQUINO

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