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US-chartered cargo plane crashes into Afghan mountaintop; 9 Azerjbaijani crew feared dead
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) ' A Russian-made Ilyushin-76 cargo plane chartered by the U.S. military crashed into a mountaintop in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Wednesday, as fears rose for the fate of its nine-member Azerbaijani crew.
The plane was hauling equipment from the Azerbaijan capital of Baku to Bagram Air Field in eastern Afghanistan, said Kabul airport official Yaqub Rasoliob.
Afghan transport ministry spokesman Nangyalai Qalatwal said it was unknown whether any of the crew survived. Qalatwal said the plane belonged to Azerbaijan's government.
No Americans were aboard the plane, said U.S. Army Maj. James Lowe, a spokesman for the U.S. Transportation Command at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Lowe said the cargo included four pallets of heavy equipment, describing the flight as a standard shipment into Bagram.
The plane crashed into a mountain while flying at an altitude of about 12,500 feet (3,800 meters), said British Maj. Tim James, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. There was no insurgent activity in the area at the time of the crash, he said.
The plane hit a mountain peak late Tuesday night, around 11 p.m., said Sayed Aleem Agha, the top official in Sayagred district of Parwan province, north of Kabul.
Agha said he fears that crew members were killed, but that rescue workers had not yet arrived at the crash site.
"I saw a huge fire as a result of the crash," he said. "My guess is that it was a big cargo plane because the fire lasted for a long time."
The Ilyushin-76 is a Russian-designed cargo plane similar in size to a Boeing C-17.
A joint Afghan-NATO team, including Afghan interior, defense and transportation ministry officials has gone to the crash site to investigate, said Qalatwal, the transportation ministry spokesman.