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Kenyan Cabinet Minister Dies in Helicopter Crash

Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti (file photo)
NAIROBI - Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti has been killed in a helicopter crash, along with an assistant minister and four other people.

The helicopter carrying Saitoti and Assistant Internal Security Minister Joshua Orwa Ojode went down around nine in the morning, local time, near the town of Ngong.

Government officials say everyone on board, including the pilots and two policemen were killed.

Saitoti, a former vice president, was planning to run for president in next year's election. He was 66 years old.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga called the event a "great tragedy," and referred to the crash as an accident. Speaking to reporters in Nakuru, he described his last meeting with Saitoti.

"But we were just in Mombasa two days ago at this forum for peaceful elections, where Professor Saitoti spoke very passionately about the need for a peaceful elections, and the measures which his Ministry of Internal Security will put in place," said Odinga.

In a statement, President Mwai Kibaki said "Minister Saitoti will forever be remembered as a hardworking and determined public servant who dedicated his time to the service of the Kenyan people."

As internal security minister, Saitoti was a leading voice of Kenya's counter-terror campaign against the Somali militant group al-Shabab.

Coincidentally, June 10 is also the fourth anniversary of another plane crash that killed two Kenyan Cabinet ministers not far from the site of Sunday's crash.