Abyei — An Ethiopian military helicopter with 23 passengers on board crashed on Saturday inside the compound of the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA). Three crew members were killed.
Ten passengers were injured with three in critical condition, the spokesman for UNISFA said in a press release on Saturday.
The three who are in critical condition have been conveyed to Kadugli en route to Addis Ababa while those not in critical condition are being stabilised at the UNISFA Level II hospital in Abyei, the statement reads.
The MI-8 helicopter was on routine operation carrying Ethiopian troops on rotation from Kadugli to Abyei when it crashed.
The immediate cause of the crash is not yet known. "We are investigating the incident," UNISFA's acting Head of Mission and Force Commander Maj Gen Gebre Adhana Woldezgu commented.
"We are deeply saddened by what happened this afternoon. We are extending our condolences to the families of those who died in the crash," he said.
Woldezgu commended UNISFA personnel who responded promptly to the crash by assisting to evacuate passengers from the helicopter, saying that the casualty figures could have been much higher. "This show of solidarity reflects the spirit of peacekeeping and must be applauded", he added.
The helicopter flew from Kadugli for the Mission's regular troop rotation. UNISFA's sole troop-contributing country Ethiopia is currently rotating its soldiers from Kadugli to various sites in Abyei.
Ethiopia has around 4,500 personnel on the ground to support UNISFA's efforts of ensuring peace and security in Abyei, a border region disputed by Sudan and South Sudan.