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PRETORIA, December 22 (Itar-Tass) —— The South Sudan Army has acknowledged that on Friday it downed a Russian Mi-8 helicopter working under a contract with the United Nations. The helicopter was mistaken for an enemy aircraft.
"The artillery unit unfortunately fired on the aircraft knowing that this is an enemy aircraft, because there was no prior information from the UN about this aircraft being in the area," the South Sudan Army’s spokesman Philip Aguer is quoted by the SAPA news agency as saying. "After fifteen minutes of shooting at the target we heard that the UN had sent an aircraft."
The incident occurred in South Sudan’s state of Jonglei, where government forces earlier this week attacked warring ethnic factions. Eleven militants and five soldiers of the regular army were killed in the hostilities. The United Nations provides relief aid to the population in the center of clashes between Jonglei’s warring communities.
The ill-fortunate Russian Mi-8 helicopter was part of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UMISS). It was shot down at about 10:00 local time on Friday during a reconnaissance flight. As the UN Secretary-General’s spokesman, Eduardo Del Buey, has said the incident occurred in the area of Likuangole, the state of Jonglei, in the east of the country.
The mission launched a search and rescue operation at once. The death of all four crew members was confirmed, Buey said.