Sudan's former southern rebel leader and First Vice President John Garang, who this year made peace with the northern government, has been killed in an accident Monday while flying from Uganda to Sudan.
Mr. Garang was flying home Saturday from talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The helicopter encountered bad weather, and radio contact was eventually lost.
The missing helicopter belonged to the Ugandan military, Voice of America reports.
Mr. Garang had led the SPLM during a 21 year civil war. He was sworn in as Sudan's vice president last month as part of a peace deal he helped negotiate to end the conflict.
Rudi Muller, head of the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in southern Sudan, told Reuters by telephone from southern Sudan he had been told of Garang's death by the governor of the Lake State in southern Sudan.
"It was the governor of the Lake State who told us in a meeting at 3.30 a.m. that Doctor Garang has been killed in an accident," he said. "It has now been confirmed that the plane crashed after it hit a mountain range in southern Sudan because of poor visibility and this resulted in the death of Dr. John Garang DeMabior, six of his colleagues and seven other crew members of the Ugandan presidential plane," Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir was quoted as saying by AP.
Mr. Garang was born in 1945 into southern Sudan's Dinka ethnic group.
He attended secondary school in Tanzania and college in the United States. He earned a bachelors degree from Grinnell University in the state of Iowa, in the north-central United States and a Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University.
He joined the Sudanese army, but wound up leading the Sudanese People's Liberation Army during a decades-long rebellion against the government. The rebellion was ignited when leaders in Khartoum imposed Islamic law upon the predominantly Christian south.
The civil war killed an estimated two million people. It was ended by a peace deal signed in January of this year. Mr. Garang was a primary negotiator in the agreement.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18