KHARTOUM, Sudan — Fifteen Sudanese military personnel were killed and seven others injured when their transport plane crashed west of Khartoum on Oct. 7 on its way to conflict-plagued Darfur, state media reported.
The death toll rose from an initial 13 after two victims succumbed to their injuries, army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad was quoted as saying by the state SUNA news agency.
It is the worst toll in a series of Sudanese military aviation incidents since early 2011 and follows a recent surge of unrest in Darfur, the far-west region where a rebellion began nearly a decade ago.
A military investigation team has visited the crash site and expects to conclude its probe soon, Saad said.
“The pilot informed the airport that he had a problem with one of his engines,” before the plane went down west of Jebel Aulia, he told AFP earlier.
Debris was scattered across red desert sand charred black from the impact, a photograph taken at the scene showed.
Saad said the plane, with six crew and 16 other members of the armed forces, was carrying military equipment from Khartoum to El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state.
A witness said a helicopter ferried the dead and injured from the crash scene, which had been sealed off by soldiers, about 43 miles west of the capital.
Jebel Aulia is a popular recreational site about one hour’s drive south of the Khartoum area.
Sudan’s armed forces, which rely on Russian-made planes and helicopters, have suffered a number of aircraft losses in recent years.
In July, Darfur rebels said they shot down an Mi17 helicopter, killing seven personnel from the military which blamed a malfunction for the incident.
Last December, all six crewmen aboard another military helicopter died when it crash-landed and burned in North Kordofan state. The army cited a technical problem, as it did in April 2011 when a helicopter went down in Darfur killing all five soldiers on board.
On Oct. 4, Washington voiced concern that security in western Darfur was worsening and threatening the implementation of peace accords there.
“The United States is deeply concerned by the sharp deterioration in security in North Darfur and adjacent parts of Jebel Marra, Sudan,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.
More than 70 civilians were killed in Hashaba, North Darfur, between Sept. 25-27 in fighting and aerial bombardments between rebels and the Sudanese government forces, she said.
Washington was also “appalled” by an Oct. 2 attack on a U.N. patrol in which four Nigerian peacekeepers were killed and eight wounded, she added.
Rebels from black African tribes rose up against the Arab-dominated Khartoum government in 2003. Clashes with government troops, banditry and inter-ethnic fighting continue but levels of violence have fallen compared to nearly a decade ago.