* U.N.'s Ban slams attack on "clearly marked helicopter"
* South Sudan army says regrets incident
JUBA Dec 21 South Sudan's army shot down a
United Nations peacekeeping helicopter in the restive Jonglei
state on Friday, killing the four Russian crew members onboard,
U.N. and military officials said.
A U.N. source said the helicopter was on a reconnaissance
mission in an area where the SPLA, South Sudan's army, has been
fighting rebels led by David Yau Yau.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the
attack on the "clearly marked" helicopter and in a statement
called "on the government of South Sudan to immediately carry
out an investigation and bring to account those responsible for
He demanded measures be put in place to prevent any further
incidents in South Sudan, where the U.N. mission, known as
UNMISS, was created after it seceded from Sudan in July 2011.
The U.N. Security Council echoed Ban's remarks, saying in a
statement that it "strongly deplored" the incident, which it
said was a "grave violation of the Status of Forces Agreement"
between South Sudan and UNMISS and jeopardized the operations of
South Sudan's army first denied it had shot down the Russian
helicopter but later said it had mistaken it for a Sudanese
plane supplying Yau Yau rebels in Jonglei.
"We regret the incident," army spokesman Philip Aguer said,
adding an artillery unit had spotted a plane landing in an area
where Yau Yau forces were operating.
"We saw a white plane landing and asked UNMISS whether they
had any flight in the area but they denied it. The army opened
fire because it thought it was an enemy plane supplying Yau Yau
with weapons." he said. "We later heard UNMISS had a flight
there. They should have informed us."
U.N. peacekeeping spokesman Kieran Dwyer said in New York
that since Sept. 27, 2011, there have been six other incidents
involving detention, searching, and shooting at UNMISS aircraft
and threatening of passengers and crew.
South Sudan often accuses Sudan of airdropping weapons to
rebels in Jonglei.
Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted a source at the
Russian embassy in South Sudan as saying the Mi-8 helicopter
owned by Nizhnevartovskavia was working under a U.N. contract
when it was downed.
Earlier this year, Russia said it would withdraw helicopters
and personnel servicing the U.N. mission in South Sudan after
voicing alarm at attacks on U.N. helicopters there.
In September, South Sudanese soldiers killed at least 10
troops when they shot and sank one of their own military
riverboats in a remote region after mistaking it for an enemy
craft, the army said.
South Sudan has been struggling since independence to build
up state institutions in a country awash with weapons after
decades of civil war with Khartoum ended with a 2005 peace
Human rights groups often accuse the SPLA, a loose group of
former guerillas, of human rights violations and abuses. The
army denies this.
Yau Yau, a former theology student, heads one of several
militias fighting the government, which accuses Sudan of
supporting them. Sudan denies this.
A shortwave radio station with links to the Yau Yau
rebellion earlier this year said the group was fighting the
government in reaction to abuses committed during the
In a separate incident in the western Darfur region of
neighboring Sudan that highlighted the risks blue-helmeted
troops face in the region, four peacekeepers were killed by a
comrade who opened fire, the U.N.-African Union Mission in