The Inquirer (Monrovia)

12 February 2013

Liberia: Guinean Army Chief, Several Killed

Liberians have begun mourning the shocking death of the head of Guinea's Armed Forces and other senior military officials from the West African state of Guinea. The Guinean Chief of Staff with four other military personnel and five civilians including a journalist were killed on Monday when their aircraft crashed at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Margibi County outside Monrovia.

Elhadji Abdoudaye Dore, Guinean Ambassador accredited near Monrovia confirmed the death of his statesmen to reporters in Monrovia minutes following the celebration of Liberia's Armed Forces Day.

Information Minister Louis Brown has also told Journalists at RIA that the Government of Liberia has already informed the Government of Guinea of this shocking incident.

At the same time, Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has extended condolence to families of those killed in the Monday plane crash and declared Tuesday(that is today) national day of mourning in memory of the killed Guinean nationals.

Report from Guinea has also confirmed that the Chief of Staff and five other military officers were on the plane and that everyone onboard died.

Guinea's military chief, General Kelefa Diallo was on the plane on a security mission to Liberia, police in Guinea said. According to our information, Diallo was a close ally of Guinean President Alpha Conde, who was elected to lead the world's top bauxite producer in late 2010, ending two years of military rule.

Amb. Dore and security officials in Liberia have disclosed that at least 10 persons were killed in the crash, which occurred at Charlesville, Margibi County some 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Monrovia.

Those who died in the crash according to security sources include, Col. Mamadou Cellou Dalein Diallo; Col. Sanousay Camara; Lt. Col. Moustaphy Sangare, Lt. Col. Soriba Diawara and Lt. Col. Mohamed Coumbassa.

Others include, GDD Souleymane Kelefa Diallo, Mamadou Conde Interp, Cdt Mdou Malal Diallo, a journalist for the Guinean military, Cdt Abdourahman Camara and Mamoudou Conde Aide Camp.

"Senior Guinean military and defense officials were on the plane,"Reuters quoted Liberian Defense Minister, Brownie Samukai as saying. Minutes following the Armed Forces Day celebration, Liberian Government officials with other dignitaries trooped to the site of the plane crash in Margibi County.

General Diallo was one of the major architects of reform of Guinea's restive military, which had seized power in the former French colony in 2008. Some 4,000 soldiers were forced to retire under a U.N.-backed scheme to reduce the bloated armed forces.

Diallo's predecessor, NouhouThiam, is in prison facing trial for his alleged role in a gun and rocket attack on President Conde's home by soldiers in 2011.

Our reporter who visited the scene in Charlesville, Margibi County where the incident took place said the management of RIA has confirmed the crash incident involving a CASA Aircraft (CN-235) with registration 3x-GGG approximately 3 miles south of the aerodrome.

It was established that the flight originated from Conakry, Guinea and at 0709 GMT, air traffic control cleared the flight to land at RIA. "That was the last known contact with the crew," the RIA management told newsmen.

So far, RIA management told reporters that 11 bodies have been recovered with the help of the search and rescue team comprising the Firefighting team of RIA, UNMIL, authorities at the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority, the Firestone PPD rescue and Firefighting team, Firestone Medical team and the Liberia National Red Cross. Despite the incident, RIA management wants the public to know that the airport remains open and is fully operational while an investigation is ongoing to know the cause of the crash.

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