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Sudanese minister among dead in plane crash

An airplane carrying a Sudanese government delegation to the disputed South Kordofan region has crashed, killing up to 31 people. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.

The plane crashed while attempting to land in the town of Talodi at around 8 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) on Sunday morning, according to a Sudan Aviation Authority official.

"All people on board were killed," Abdel Hafiz Abdel Rahim, a spokesman for the authority, told news agency AFP, among others. Abdel Rahim added that as the plane was landing "an explosion was heard and the plane was destroyed."

There was conflicting initial information about the precise number of passengers and crew on board.

The government delegation was heading to the South Kordofan region near the disputed border with South Sudan for a function marking the Muslim Eid holiday, celebrated at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Arabic satellite channel Al Arabiya, meanwhile, reported that Sudan's Guidance and Endowments Minister Ghazi Al-Saddiq was on board, citing a correspondent.

Sudan's official SUNA news agency published only a brief alert, saying "a plane with 26 passengers, including ministers, crashed near Talodi."

It was not immediately clear whether the plane was part of the rather dated Sudan Airways fleet, a company that has suffered several crashes attributed in part to long-standing US sanctions.

The oil-rich South Kordofan region borders South Sudan, which gained independence last year. It has been the site of continued disputes since the South's secession.

msh/tj (AFP, Reuters)