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Death of Sudanese VP Sparks Protests

Thousands of people are reported to be protesting on the streets of Khartoum at the news of John Garang's death. Mr. Garang - who led the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement/Army for more than two decades - was sworn in as Sudan's First Vice President less than a month ago.

News began circulating late Saturday that John Garang had taken off in a helicopter from a Ugandan airport near Kampala and had not been heard from since. He was headed to southern Sudan. Ugandan officials confirmed Sunday that the aircraft had gone missing. On Monday, United Nations officials were able to confirm that John Garang had, indeed, died in a helicopter crash.

So far, Ugandan and Sudanese authorities say Mr. Garangs helicopter tried to go around an area of bad weather and must have crash landed.

Salva Kiir Mayardit - deputy chairman of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement/Army - was quick to try to reassure those in Khartoum that Mr. Garangs death would not derail the hard-earned peace deal reached between him and Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir.

"Southern Sudan and, indeed, the whole Sudan has lost its beloved son, Dr. John Garang de Mabior. The first vice president of the Republic of Sudan and the president of South Sudan was on an official visit to Uganda during the period of 29, 30 July, 2005, when the helicopter he was traveling in crashed near South of New Kush on his return last Saturday," he said. "I take this opportunity to assure the southern Sudanese, in particular, the Sudanese people, in general, that we in the SPLM / A leadership will continue the vision and the objectives of the Movement that Dr. John Garang de Mabior has articulated and hoped to implement."

However, Kenyas Nation TV reported that SPLA soldiers have started ransacking houses in the southern Sudanese city, Juba. They also are said to have demanded the immediate eviction of Sudanese army troops.