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Military plane crashes west of Algerian capital

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

ALGIERS, Algeria -- An Algerian military plane slammed into a house west of the capital Monday, killing up to 17 people, including women and children on the ground, authorities said.

Fire raged through several houses after the C130 Hercules transport crashed in the neighborhood of Beni Mered shortly after takeoff from the Boufarik military airport, 25 miles southwest of the capital.

Hours after the crash, confusion surrounded the number of deaths with rescuers saying 17, state-run Algerian television putting the toll at 15, and Col. Zoubir Sbaa of the Algerian military saying 12.

The rescuers told The Associated Press that five crew members and 12 people on the ground were killed, including two women and three children inside the house that the plane hit.

They said five people on the ground were injured.

Witnesses said they saw flames shooting from one of the plane's engines before the crash. Seven houses were damaged in addition to the one hit, some by fire.

There was no immediate word on what caused the crash. The aircraft's two black boxes were found in the debris. Sbaa said an investigating commission would study them.

The plane's pilot was qualified to fly the huge aircraft, Col. Mohamed Hamadi, commander of the Boufarik military base, told Algerian radio.

In March, an Air Algerie passenger jet crashed and killed 102 people in the Sahara Desert. The crash was state-run Air Algerie's first since its founding in 1953, and the lack of experience in coping with airline accidents hampered rescue efforts.


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