At least 10 killed in UN chopper crash in Nepal

March 3rd, 2008 - 9:41 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 3 (IANS) At least 10 people, mostly UN personnel, were killed and their bodies charred beyond recognition as the helicopter ferrying them from a Maoist guerrilla camp crashed in a remote area in eastern Nepal Monday afternoon, police said. The helicopter belonged to the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) that was invited by the Nepal government and the Maoist guerrillas in 2006 to facilitate the peace negotiations by managing the arms and combatants of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and was carrying UNMIN arms monitors at the time of the crash.

UNMIN spokesman Kieran Dwyer confirmed to IANS that an UNMIN chopper had been involved in the crash.

“The helicopter was returning to Kathmandu from the Maoist cantonment in Sindhuli in the east,” Dwyer said.

The spokesman said his office had no further information immediately as no UNMIN personnel were present in the area where the crash had occurred.

Police reports from Bethan village in Ramechhap district, once a Maoist stronghold, said around 4.30 p.m., the chopper had crashed after catching fire.

UN sources said it was probably carrying 10 people, including the Nepali pilot, Captain Bhim Bahadur Gurung.

Local residents and police personnel rushed to the site to rescue the passengers and were able to bring out 10 bodies.

However, till evening, the charred bodies had not been identified.

It was not known immediately if Gen Jan Erik Wilhelmsen, who heads the arms monitors, was on board.

There is a possibility of the toll rising.

The reason of the crash could not be ascertained immediately. Besides engine failure and pilot error, bad weather could also be the reason with the Himalayan nation Monday experiencing unseasonal rain with thunder and lightning.

The accident is reminiscent of the one that occurred in eastern Nepal in 2006 killing all 24 people abroad, including the pilots, a minister and senior officials of the World Wildlife Foundation.

The UNMIN was given a six-month extension in January to observe the election that was postponed to April 10.

UNMIN is headed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s special representative Ian Martin.

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