Four children were among those killed after a military plane crashed a few minutes after takeoff in the Sudanese town of El Geneina, a military spokesman said according to a state media outlet.
The aircraft carrying 18 people, including seven crew members, crashed five minutes after it left the airport on Thursday killing everyone on board, Brigadier Amer Muhammad al-Hassan, said in a statement Thursday according to state news SUNA.
“An Antonov military plane crashed Thursday evening five minutes after it took off from El Geneina Airport, which led to the death of all its crew—seven officers—in addition to three judges and eight citizens among them are four children,” al-Hassan said in the statement according to state news SUNA.
The military spokesman said an investigation is underway to find out the cause of the accident, though there were no immediate reports of foul play.
A UN Sudan spokesperson told CNN the plane was heading to the capital Khartoum before the crash.
Poor Aviation Safety Records
Plane crashes are not uncommon in Sudan, given the country’s poor aviation safety records.
In 2003, a civilian Sudan Airways plane crashed into a hillside while trying to make an emergency landing, killing 116 people, including eight foreigners.
Only a small boy survived the Boeing crash.
Recent tribal clashes in El Geneina—which is the capital of West Darfur and lies close to Sudan’s border with Chad—have killed at least three dozen people, including women and children and the organization and other peacekeeping forces started to evacuate their staff and contractors on Jan. 1, according to the UN.
On Thursday, Sudan’s Red Crescent said the casualty toll had jumped to 48 killed and 167 wounded in the violence. The local relief group has also said that more than 8,000 families were displaced after violence erupted in the region.
There is a heavy military presence around the city, which has received security reinforcements and visits by senior officials this week.
The clashes pose a challenge to efforts by Sudan’s transitional government to end decades-long rebellions in areas like Darfur.
In response, rebel groups from Darfur suspended peace talks with the government and called for an investigation.
Earlier this week, Sudanese Prime Minister Hamdok and Gen. Mohammeed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the Sovereign Council, had visited the town and expressed their commitment to prosecuting the perpetrators.
The Associated Press and CNN Wire contributed to this report.