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National Archives

Public Papers - 1989

Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on the Disappearance of Representative Mickey Leland in Africa


We understand the frustration and grief that Congressman Mickey Leland's family and staff must be enduring as the search for his aircraft and its passengers continues. This is indeed a time of great apprehension and sadness for all those who know Congressman Leland. President Bush has long been a friend and colleague of Congressman Leland. They share mutual political interests in Houston and have worked together on any number of Texas issues. The President remains hopeful that the Congressman and his party will be found alive and well. He has expressed those sentiments personally to Mrs. Leland.

The United States Government and the Ethiopian Government have committed unprecedented amounts of people, equipment, and other resources to the search for the Leland aircraft. From the U.S. point of view, we have more than 160 U.S. military personnel in Ethiopia operating C - 141, HC - 130, C - 21, C - 5, and MH - 60 aircraft and helicopters involved in the rescue effort. A U - 2 reconnaissance aircraft that took photographs of the search area yesterday returned to the area today to take more pictures. Both of the beeper findings which have been detected have been investigated without success.

The United States commitment to this search is the largest, most comprehensive undertaking in recent memory. The U.S. commitment, coupled with thousands of Ethiopians making ground searches, will continue.

Note: Representative Leland, chairman of the House Select Committee on Hunger, disappeared en route to a refugee camp in Fugnido, Ethiopia.

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