Tunisian army brass wiped out in helicopter crash
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Friday, May 3, 2002
CAIRO — Tunisia has launched an investigation into the crash of a
military helicopter that appears to have killed much of the army command.
The helicopter crashed on Tuesday in northern Tunisia. The official TAP
news agency said the helicopter was transporting army officers who were
returning from an inspection of troops near the Algerian border, where
Islamic insurgents are said to be active.
Algeria and Tunisia have cooperated over the last year in tracking down
the insurgents, who have used the Tunisian frontier to launch attacks
against Algierian troops and civilians, Middle East Newsline reported.
Defense Minister Dali Jazi said 13 Tunisian army officers were killed in
the crash about 60 kilometers northwest of Tunis. This included the army
chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Abdul Aziz Skik, appointed army commander late
last year. The remaining officers included five colonels.
TAP said the military has launched a probe of the accident, called the
worst in the country's history. The agency said the cause of the crash
appears to have been a technical fault.
Tunisia has one of the more modern helicopter fleets in North Arica. Its
medium-transport S-61R fleet was obtained in 1994 and the French-made SA-342
Gazelle's were delivered in 1991. The rest of Tunisia's helicopter fleet was
obtained in the 1970ss and 1980s.
Tunisia's military did not disclose how many people were killed or
injured in the crash or the model helicopter that went down. But Western
defense sources who monitor Tunisia said the military has reduced the
purchase of supplies and maintenance amid budget woes.