Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Missing Ugandan copters found burnt,2 Soldiers dead

A Chopper resembling the ones that crashed in Kenya.Picture Courtesy
Kenya's Chief of the Defence Forces, General Karangi has confirmed that the two Ugandan choppers that crashed while enroute to Somalia were found early Tuesday morning, one was completely burnt and the other hanging on a cliff.
Two soldiers have been confirmed and seven others were rescued and taken to hospital

The fate of the 10 soldiers who were on board is unknown and efforts are underway to trace them.
Kenyan military and police sources had said one of the choppers was completely burnt while the second one had the engine and body burnt.

The helicopters crashed as they flew to Somalia for war with the militants Al-Shabaab.
“The missing choppers have been located about 1,200 feet at the mountain and they were badly burnt. One is completely burnt while the second one had its tail unaffected,” said a highly placed police source.

The Kenya Defence Forces who are leading the rescue and search mission said the planes may have burst into flames on crashing. The officials said they were now using ground troops to reach the site of the crash. This is because the place of the crash is so thick and has no landing area for a helicopter.

The ground troops who are expected to take hours to reach the site are using what officials termed as co-ordinates to access the site. The co-ordinates are military terms, which gives one exact location using GPRS.

The exercise of getting to the site is expected to mark the end of the search and rescue mission that started on Monday morning.

Bad weather was initially blamed for the crash that happened on Sunday evening. The choppers were part of a fleet of four that was headed for Baidoa when they went missing on the radar.
While one helicopter made it to Garissa as scheduled three went missing.
One of the choppers was sited on Monday morning and seven soldiers rescued before they were taken to the Nanyuki air strip for fisrt aid.

The soldiers had sent a signal to the Department of Defence headquarters for help.
Military choppers had also been dropping food and water to the Ugandan soldiers before they were rescued by a private pilot.

Ugandan military and defence ministry spokesman, Col. Felix Kulayigye, told journalists in Kampala that one Mi-17 transport chopper, with 13 individuals onboard made it to Mogadishu, while two of the three Mi-24 attack helicopters are yet to be found. Each of the lost choppers, which have now been found had five soldiers on board.
One Mi-24 attack helicopter crash-landed in Castle Forest, about 14 kilometres from Kimunye Forest Service in Mt. Kenya.
Rescuers had been searching for the two other choppers of the three Ugandan attack helicopters that went missing Sunday as they flew to Somalia to shore up the final attack on the port city of Kismayu.
Experts said initial findings pointed to pilot error and bad weather as the cause that led to the crash even as the search for the two others went on.

Officials said the pilots were new to the terrain and may have followed a wrong route and ran into turbulent weather in the mountain.

Questions were being raised as to why and how all the three crashed nearly the same area and time and why it took long for them to be located or the incident to be realized.

Initial findings said the four choppers with 28 crew left a base in Soroti in Eastern Uganda Sunday for Eldoret.
They were then scheduled to land in Nanyuki for refueling before heading for Garissa and Wajir.

Reports said the choppers arrived in Nanyuki at 4pm and later left for Garissa where they were expected at about 6 pm.
But only helicopter number Mi17 that landed successfully in Garissa and reported to have lost contact with the rest of the helicopters past 6 pm.

It took almost 12 hours for the rescuers to move into action to help those trapped in the forest in unexplained circumstances.
This was after a pilot of one of the affected three MI-23, which disappeared radioed Department of Defence in Nairobi saying they were alive in the forest and needed urgent help.

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) said a team of helicopters had left a base in the Ugandan city of Entebbe but that only one had landed in the Kenyan town of Garissa, where they were scheduled to refuel before flying on to Somalia.

It is only last week, the first time that UPDF sent a contingent of ace pilots to support the ongoing AU peace operations in Somalia.

The air force would provide aerial escort for convoys, reconnaissance operations along the supply routes, medical evacuation, air search and rescue as well as aerial combat against the al-Shabaab in Mogadishu.

The incident came at a time when the long-planned assault on Somalia’s southern port town of Kismayu by the Kenya Defence Forces and their Amisom allies is probably only days away in what will be a decisive week for Somalia.

The African Union force, which also includes Kenyan and Burundian troops, is planning an onslaught on Somalia's second biggest city Kismayu, which is a hub for the Islamist militants, before August 20.

Courtesy www.standardmedia.co.ke

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