KHARTOUM — Four children were among 18 people killed on Thursday when a Sudanese military transport plane crashed after takeoff from West Darfur state, an army spokesman said, following recent unrest there.
The plane crashed five minutes after takeoff from an airport in the state capital El Geneina, after delivering aid to the area, which had been hit by recent deadly tribal fighting.
"An Antonov 12 military plane crashed on Thursday night after take off from El Geneina killing its seven-member crew, three judges and eight civilians, including four children, who were on board," the spokesman Amer Mohammed Al-Hassan said.
He said an investigation was underway to determine the cause of the crash. Most of Sudan's military and civilian fleet consists of old Soviet-made aircraft, and the country has suffered a series of crashes in recent years, with the military frequently blaming technical problems and bad weather.
Earlier a military source said the plane had delivered aid to West Darfur which was rocked earlier this week by deadly tribal clashes.
At least 48 people have been killed and 241 wounded in that violence, according to Sudan's Red Crescent.
It said the armed clashes broke out on Sunday night in El Geneina, and continued until Monday between Arab and African groups, with several houses torched.
"This morning the situation is calm," the Red Crescent said on Thursday.
It said the bodies of the 48 people killed were transferred to a morgue in El Geneina and that 19 of those wounded were in a critical condition and flown to Khartoum for treatment.
According to Sudanese media, the fighting erupted after a row between two people, but it was not immediately clear what sparked it.
A woman reached by phone on Tuesday said she had fled the Krinding camp for displaced Masalit people, a non-Arab ethnic group, near El Geneina after assailants torched tents there.
"Our tents were set on fire. We have no food and only the clothes on our back and there are bodies littering the ground," she said.
The government also deployed troops to El Geneina to restore order. Residents of the state capital who spoke to AFP by phone on Thursday said security forces were patrolling main roads in the city, and confirmed that the fighting had subsided.
In January 2016, six people were killed in unrest in West Darfur following violence involving Masalit tribesmen and members of the Arab Beni Halba tribe.
Darfur – made up of five states – spiralled into conflict in 2003 when ethnic minority rebels took up arms against the Arab-dominated government of now ousted president Omar al-Bashir, whom they accused of marginalising the region.
The conflict left around 300,000 people dead and displaced 2.5 million others, the UN says.
Bashir, who is behind bars for corruption and awaiting trial on other charges domestically, is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in Darfur.
Sudan said on December 22 it had opened a probe into crimes committed in Darfur.
The latest fighting in Darfur sparked rallies in Khartoum, with protesters marching to the prime minister's office and the justice ministry carrying signs calling for an "end to massacres in the camps of the displaced".
They also called on authorities to punish the culprits. — AFP