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John Garang has landed safely, television reports

7/31/2005 9:14pm


KHARTOUM, Sudan, July 31, 2005 (AP) — Vice President John Garang has landed safely after contact was lost with his plane, Sudanese state TV reported Sunday.

Garang, the former southern rebel leader who became Sudan’s vice president after a peace agreement, had been reported missing in bad weather earlier Sunday on a flight from Uganda.

State television interrupted its regular programing to say that Garang "has landed safely at a camp in southern Sudan."

The television did not report where his plane had landed.

Garang is a charismatic figure whose leadership is seen as key to ensuring the endurance of the peace agreement signed in January, which ended 21 years of war between the Khartoum government and the southern-based rebels whom he led. It is hoped that his role in the transitional government, which took office in July, could help bring peace to other volatile regions in Sudan, including Darfur.

Earlier Sunday, the television said President Omar el-Bashir had received a call saying that contact was lost with Garang’s aircraft in southern Sudan.

The government has mobilized all its resources to look for the plane, government spokesman Abdel-Basit Sabdarat was quoted by the television as saying.

"Contact with his plane has been lost since 6:30 p.m. (1530 GMT) because of bad weather," the TV presenter said, speaking in front of a picture of Garang.

Earlier Sunday, Ugandan army spokesman 2nd Capt. Dennis Musitwa said the helicopter apparently went down Saturday. The discrepancy could not be immediately explained.

"They left yesterday in a Ugandan chopper," Musitwa told The Associated Press. "What we know is that the aircraft got weather problems and crash-landed."

"We have not established where they landed. They have not reached where they are supposed to reach, and we are trying to locate them," he said.

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