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Sudan: ICRC resumes its flights

21-05-2001 News Release 01/18

Geneva (ICRC) – From today, 21 May 2001, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will resume its flights, which were suspended on 9 May following a grave security incident in which an ICRC aircraft came under fire and the Danish co-pilot, Ole Friis Eriksen, was killed. The decision to resume flights was based on information indicating that this event was the result of a tragic combination of circumstances and was not a premeditated attack, nor was the ICRC deliberately targeted.

The plane had been forced by a pressurization problem to descend to an altitude of 2,500 metres over the Didinga Hills, an area with plateaux and peaks culminating at over 2,500 metres. The aircraft was therefore quite near the ground, and was preparing to regain altitude when it came under fire. The region is known to harbour several armed groups belonging to various movements. The bullet holes found in the cabin appear to have been made by a light automatic weapon.

From now on ICRC flights will be subject to more specific security directives, relating in particular to the zones overflown and the minimum altitude to be maintained. It should be mentioned that ICRC aircraft have been overflying this area for several years and that all parties involved in the conflict are kept fully informed. The ICRC is pursuing its contacts with the parties concerned in order to elucidate the exact circumstances of the tragedy.