- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 11, 2008

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) | A Sudanese jetliner landed in a thunderstorm and veered off the runway late Tuesday, bursting into flames and killing about 100 people, Sudanese officials said.

More than 200 passengers were aboard, officials said, and a higher casualty toll was feared. An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the plane appeared to have left the runway as it landed at Khartoum International Airport.

Youssef Ibrahim, director of the airport, told Sudanese TV that the plane “landed safely” in Khartoum and the pilot was talking to the control tower and getting further instructions when the accident occurred.

“One of the [plane’s] engines exploded and the plane caught fire,” Mr. Ibrahim said.

He said poor weather did not cause the crash, which he blamed on a technical problem.

The Sudanese ambassador to Washington called the weather “very bad” and said the runway was drenched by rain.

Head of Sudanese police, Mohammad Najib, said the weather “caused the plane to crash land, split into two and catch fire.”

“We believe that most of the passengers were able to make it out and escape with their lives,” said Mr. Najib, without disclosing further details on how they escaped.

Raqeeb Abdel-Latif, head of the Sudan Airways office in Damascus, Syria, said the plane was a Sudan Airbus-310 that became part of the Sudanese national carrier fleet seven months ago.

It took off from Damascus with 203 passengers on board, mostly Africans an a few non-Sudanese nationals and 14 crew members. It stopped in Amman, Jordan, where 34 additional passengers got aboard.

Due to inclement weather, the aircraft stopped at Port Sudan Airport along the Red Sea, picking up 35 passengers and refueling before heading back, Sudanese Ambassador John Ukec Lueth Ukec said in Washington.

Most of the passengers were believed to be Sudanese, with some foreigners among them, the ambassador said.

In July 2003, a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 en route from Port Sudan to Khartoum crashed soon after takeoff, killing all 115 people on board.

After that crash, Sudanese officials blamed U.S. sanctions for restricting vital aircraft parts. The State Department said there was no ban on equipment needed for aviation safety.

In 1997, President Clinton issued an executive order barring the export of goods and technology to Sudan because of the country’s “support for international terrorism” and poor human rights record.

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