South Sudanese armed forces shot down a United Nations reconnaissance helicopter in eastern South Sudan. All four Russian crew members were killed. There were no passengers aboard the helicopter.
The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) issued a statement indicating that it has started an investigation into the incident. The MI-8 helicopter was on a reconnaissance flight about 10 a.m. local time when it was shot down by the SPLA the South Sudan armed forces. Originally the helicopter was just reported as having crashed and burned.
UNMISS immediately launched a search and rescue mission that confirmed that the four Russian crew members had been killed. The UNMISS statement continued:"The Mission extends its heartfelt condolences to the families of the crew."
Russia immediately urged that South Sudan authorities identify and punish those who shot down the UN helicopter. The UN also condemned the "shooting down... of a clearly marked UN helicopter" by South Sudanese forces. Russian's foreign ministry issued a statement:"We call on the government of South Sudan to carry out the necessary investigation, punish the guilty and take every measure to guarantee that this never happens again."
The South Sudan minister of information told BBC that what caused the incident was unclear. However other officials claim that the helicopter had been mistaken for a rebel helicopter or alternatively it had been downed by rebels. However, a UN spokesperson says that the South Sudanese army confirmed the it had mistakenly fired at the helicopter.
Kieran Dwyer, a UN spokesperson, said:"In subsequent communications between the Mission and the South Sudanese armed forces (SPLA), the SPLA told the Mission that it had shot at a helicopter in the Likuangole area in Jonglei State.They were [crew members] looking for dry landing areas so that we could bring in troops to protect civilians there. We lost contact with that helicopter. We had communications with the national army, the South Sudanese army ... who told us that they had shot at a helicopter in the region We immediately dispatched a search and rescue operation by air and we found the smoking remains of that helicopter. We've since confirmed that all four crew members on board were killed."
There is an ongoing investigation into the incident. Earlier Russia had threatened to withdraw helicopters from the mission as they had been fired upon.