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Kenyan government minister among 6 killed in helicopter crash

From David McKenzie, CNN
updated 8:17 AM EDT, Sun June 10, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • George Saitoti, a former vice president, served as the internal security minister
  • The crash also killed his deputy, bodyguards and a pilot
  • The accident took place in the Ngong hills, on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital

Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) -- A helicopter crashed in the outskirts of Nairobi on Sunday, killing the Kenyan internal security minister -- a man who once served as vice president and was a presidential contender in an upcoming election.

Security minister George Saitoti, 66, was one of the most visible figures in the nation's politics.

He was aboard the flight with five others, who also died in the crash: his deputy minister Orwa Ojode, two pilots and two bodyguards, President Mwai Kibaki said.

"The deaths of the six Kenyans is a devastating loss to our country," the president said in a statement. "Minister Saitoti will forever be remembered as a hardworking and determined public servant who dedicated his time to the service of the Kenyan people."

Saitoti, an American-trained economist and mathematician, also worked for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

He served in various other positions, including minister of education.

As security minister, he was among key officials who oversaw the incursion of Kenyan forces into neighboring Somalia to battle the terror group, Al-Shabaab. Kenyan trooops have been fighting the Somali-based terror group since late last year.

"It's a sad day for Kenya," said Najib Balala, a former minister, who blamed the crash on old helicopters used by government officials. "We could have avoided this accident with better equipment."

The crash occurred in the Ngong hills on the outskirts of Nairobi.

CNN's Ash Gallagher and Faith Karimi contributed to this report

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