Kenya's minister for internal security, who once served as the country's vice president, and his deputy are among six people who died when a police helicopter crashed near the capital, according to Kenyan officials.
A spokesman said Raila Odinga, the Kenyan prime minister, had been informed of the deaths of George Saitoti, his internal security minister, and Orwa Ojode, his deputy, on Sunday.
"We have lost a cabinet minister, his assistant and their bodyguards and the pilots," a police source told AFP news agency.
Saitoti, 66, was a candidate in next year's presidential election and a key figure driving his country's fight against al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab fighters in neighbouring Somalia.
The accident occurred in the Ngong hills on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital, a police source told AFP, adding that the reason for the crash was not immediately clear.
Odinga said investigations into the cause of the crash had started and that the cabinet would hold a special session on the incident.
"This is a terrible tragedy that has struck our country this morning. Nobody knows exactly the cause of this accident. That is why experts will carry out investigations," Odinga told reporters at the scene of the crash.
"We will do everything possible to ensure we find we find out the cause of this accident, but for now it is just an
Witnesses at the scene reported seeing charred bodies, while images of the crash scene showed the helicopter reduced to twisted metal.
Saitoti, who was a long-serving vice president under former president Daniel Arap Moi, was an ally of President Mwai Kibaki.
He was the leading government voice against al-Shabab, the Somali armed group against which Kenyan forces have been conducting operations inside Somalia since October.
He often visited the scenes of grenade attacks carried out by al-Shabab inside Kenya in retaliation and had vowed that Kenya would crush the group.
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|Timothy V. Gatto|