26 Dec 2012

Border security officials die in plane crash

4:16 pm on 26 December 2012

A military aircraft carrying border guards has crashed in southern Kazakhstan, killing all 27 people on board.

The acting head of the border services agency was among the dead, the BBC reports.

A senior figure in the Kazakh emergencies department says the plane had burnt up and that only fragments remained.

The aircraft came down near the southern city of Shymkent, close to the border with Uzbekistan.

Eyewitnesses told KTK that the plane fell from a height of 800m, causing a loud explosion.

A resident identified as Baurzhan Dosov described a big fire, adding that military hats were strewn around the crash site.

The plane went down 20km from Shymkent aiport in what correspondents told KTK was very bad weather.

"There was no need for rescuers' help. Only fragments remain," the head of Kazakhstan's regional emergencies department, Valikhan Derezhepov, told Ria news agency.

Seven crew and 20 military personnel were on board the military transport plane, Kazakhstan's Committee for National Security said in a statement.

Interfax-Kazakhstan said that one of Col Stambekov's deputies and several regional border service commanders were also on the flight, from the Kazakh capital, Astana, to Shymkent.

Col Stambekov was made acting head of the service in June, weeks after 14 border troops were found dead at a burnt-out border post near Kazakhstan's southern frontier with China. The incident prompted his predecessor to resign.

Another border guard was jailed for life for his alleged role in the incident at the Arkankergen post near Almaty, after he had reportedly confessed to the authorities.

He later said he had been forced into making the confession.