, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 14 – Kenya said on Tuesday it would cooperate with Ugandan authorities to painstakingly investigate the cause of multiple helicopter accidents in Mt Kenya, which killed at least two soldiers, left four missing and 15 others wounded.
“President Kibaki assured his counterpart, President Yoweri Museveni and the government and people of Uganda, that all rescue efforts will continue in search of survivors,” a dispatch from State House said.
Four soldiers were still missing after the bodies of two of their colleagues were found in a smouldering helicopter wreckage deep inside Mount Kenya.
Eight other soldiers were found an estimated eight kilometres from their crashed helicopter which did not disintegrate on impact.
Seven other soldiers were rescued earlier on Monday near their helicopter which also crashed in the mountain, and were rushed to hospital for emergency treatment.
Rescue personnel said the 15 surviving soldiers were not badly off, other than slight injuries sustained by most of them.
Emergency crews said others, including the pilot of one of the helicopters sustained serious injuries, even as they raced against time to trace four others whose whereabouts remained unknown.
“President Mwai Kibaki has on behalf of the government and people of Kenya sent a message of condolences to the families of the members of the Uganda People’s Defence Force who perished when their helicopters crashed in Kenya on their way to the Republic of Somalia. The president also wished the injured quick recovery,” Kibaki’s press team, PPS said.
Four Ugandan army helicopters were headed to Somalia to reinforce AMISOM forces strategising to attack Kismayu when three of them crashed in the mountainous terrain late on Sunday.
One of the choppers was found on Monday and seven soldiers rescued. A fourth helicopter managed to successfully land in Garissa on Sunday evening for re-fuelling.
The ill-fated aircraft went down in thick forest terrain that dominates the snow-capped Mount Kenya which is infested with dangerous wild animals.
Kenya’s Chief of Defence Forces Julius Karangi told reporters on Tuesday that Ugandan authorities were constantly briefed on the search and rescue operation.
Initial reports from Ugandan authorities indicated that each of the helicopters was carrying seven soldiers.
With two confirmed dead, and eight rescued, the fate of the four others remained unknown.
“We are doing our best to get them if they are within the forest,” said Simon Gitau, Senior Warden of Mt Kenya National Park.
Uganda provides around a third of the nearly 17,000-strong AU force in Somalia, and Kampala had said last week that it would send its first combat and transport helicopters to the Horn of Africa nation.
The aircraft are seen as key to extending gains made against the hardline Al Shabaab insurgents, who have fled a string of stronghold towns in recent months, stretching AU military resources over a far wider zone.
Kenya invaded southern Somalia last year to attack Al Shabaab bases across its eastern border before later joining the AU force.