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Kenya mourns copter crash minister

Former Kenyan vice president George Saitoti was killed in a helicopter crash (AP)
Former Kenyan vice president George Saitoti was killed in a helicopter crash (AP)

Kenya's government has declared three days of mourning for its internal security minister and five others killed when the police helicopter they were travelling in crashed in a forest.

Meanwhile, an anti-corruption crusader said Sunday's incident called into question the government's procurement of planes and helicopters for its security forces.

George Saitoti and his deputy Orwa Ojode were among those who died in the crash near Kenya's capital Nairobi, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said. Two pilots and two bodyguards were also killed.

The death of Mr Saitoti was a "great tragedy that has befallen our country at this time as we are making elaborate preparations to hold peaceful elections," prime minister Raila Odinga said at the crash scene.

Police cordoned off the area as rescue crews collected the victims' remains.

"As we speak now, nobody knows the cause of the accident," Mr Odinga said. "Nobody knows, and that's why the experts are going to carry out investigations." He said Mr Saitoti and Mr Ojode were on their way to a political event in western Kenya.

Mr Saitoti, an American-trained economist and mathematician, was one of the most visible figures in Kenyan politics. For over a decade he was a deputy to former president Daniel arap Moi. He was the government's spokesman on security matters, including Kenya's decision to send troops to Somalia last year, in which he played a key role. He appeared often on national television to reassure the public in the aftermath of deadly attacks blamed on the Somali militant group al-Shabab.

Al-Shabab, in a message sent from its official Twitter account, welcomed "the death of the evil minister", saying Mr Saitoti was "Better off dead!". The militant group blamed him for the suffering of Muslims in Somalia and Kenya.

Johnnie Carson, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said during a visit to Kenya on Sunday that Kenya "has lost one of its most outstanding public servants".

Mr Saitoti announced last year that he would seek the Kenyan presidency in 2013.

PA

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