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Turkish military plane crash kills 34

Crash site
Debris was spread over a wide area  

ANKARA, Turkey -- A Turkish military plane has crashed in the southeast of the country, killing all 34 people on board.

The Casa CN-235 cargo plane was carrying members of Turkey's Special Forces from the south-eastern city of Diyarbakir to the capital of Ankara when it crashed in the Malatya province on Wednesday morning.

Military sources told CNN Turk that the plane was carrying 28 special forces troops and a crew of six.

Earlier reports said 37 people had been killed, but it had later emerged that three soldiers who were scheduled to be onboard did not make the flight.

CNN Turk reported that the pilot lost control of the aircraft at 5,000 metres (17,000 feet) and fell into a steep dive, crashing into a field about 650 kilometres (400 miles) southeast of Ankara.

The CN-235

In a statement, Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer said he felt great sadness that 34 military personnel had been "martyred."

Casa CN-235 cargo plane
A Turkish Army CASA CN-235 cargo plane, similar to the one that crashed  

Some witnesses in Malatya said they saw the plane explode and fall from the sky in flames.

But farmer Omer Demir was quoted on the Web site of NTV television as saying: "The plane was not on fire. It suddenly crashed into the apricot field nearby vertically and there was a big explosion."

Bayram Karaaslan, the mayor of Akcadag, a village near the crash site plane, said the destruction was total with debris scattered over about 400 metres (1,200 feet). "It does not look like a plane,"

He added: "We can only collect corpses now."

NTV reported that rescue teams have so far recovered the bodies of 18 people, adding that authorities are still searching for the plane's black box.

Diyarbakir is the largest city in overwhelmingly Kurdish south-eastern Turkey where rebels have been battling for autonomy for 15 years.

There has been no suggestion of a link between this and the plane crash.

Wednesday's tragedy was the worst air disaster in Turkey since 1994, when 57 people died in a Turkish Airlines crash.

• CASA aircraft
• CNN Turk

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