, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 14 – The three Ugandan military aircraft may have crashed due to bad weather as they headed to Somalia on Sunday, authorities in the neighbouring country said Tuesday.
“Preliminary information suggests that it was weather to blame,” Jeje Odongo, Uganda’s State Minister for Defence, told reporters, without offering more information.
Wreckages of two of the helicopters were found early on Tuesday morning, with two bodies sighted in one that was still on fire while eight other soldiers were rescued after walking for eight kilometres in search of help after their Mi-24 helicopter crashed.
Some seven other soldiers were found on Monday when rescuers located a mangled wreck of their helicopter that was part of the three that crashed in Mt Kenya.
Only one helicopter made it to Garissa for a scheduled refuelling en route to Somalia where the soldiers were to reinforce fellow troops fighting in the AMISOM force to push Al Shabaab militants off Kismayu.
Kenya said on Tuesday it would cooperate with Ugandan authorities to thoroughly investigate the cause of the multiple helicopter crashes that killed at least two soldiers and left 15 others wounded.
“President Kibaki assured his counterpart, President Yoweri Museveni and the government and people of Uganda that all rescue efforts would continue in search of survivors,” a dispatch from State House said.
Four soldiers were still missing after bodies of two of their colleagues were found in a smouldering helicopter wreckage deep inside Mt Kenya.
Rescue workers said all the 15 surviving soldiers were not badly off, other than slight injuries sustained by most of them.
Some, including the pilot of one of the helicopters had sustained serious injuries, rescue officials said even as they raced against time to trace four 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 Defense 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.
Kenya’s Chief of Defence Forces, General Julius Karangi told reporters Tuesday that Ugandan authorities were constantly briefed on the search and rescue operation.