Guinean military chief killed in plane crash in Liberia

Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:35am EST
 
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By Alphonso Toweh and Saliou Samb

MONROVIA/CONAKRY (Reuters) - The head of Guinea's armed forces, a staunch ally of President Alpha Conde, was killed on Monday when the aircraft carrying him and five other top Guinean military officials crashed close to the Liberian capital Monrovia.

General Souleymane Kelefa Diallo, who was on a security mission to Liberia, was appointed by Conde after the latter won elections in 2010 in the world's top bauxite producer.

Diallo was charged with reforming the restive army in the West African state after two years of military rule.

Investigators and United Nations peacekeepers picked through the charred wreckage of the aircraft amid a grove of palm trees near Charlesville, some 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the Liberian capital Monrovia. There were no survivors.

"This accident cost the life of six members of the delegation, including General Souleymane Kelefa Diallo, head of the armed forces, and five members of the crew," Guinea's Defense Minister Abdoul Kabele Camara said in a statement.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who visited the crash site in the company of Guinea's ambassador to Liberia, declared a national day of mourning for Tuesday.

Liberia's Defense Minister Brownie Samukai said the cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

General Diallo was one of the main architects of the reform of Guinea's powerful military, which seized power in the former French colony in 2008. Some 4,000 soldiers were forced to retire under a U.N.-backed scheme to slim the bloated armed forces.   Continued...

 
Rescue workers gather at the site where a plane carrying Guinea's military chief, General Kelefa Diallo, and other senior military officials from the West African state crashed in Charlesville, some 40 km (25 miles) southeast of Monrovia, February 11, 2013. The head of Guinea's armed forces and other senior military officials from the West African state were killed on Monday when their aircraft crashed close to the Liberian capital Monrovia, a Guinean presidential official said. REUTERS/Alphonso Toweh