163 die in Nigerian air crash

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The Independent Online
LAGOS (AP) - A military transport plane crashed into a swamp shortly after take-off from Lagos, killing all 163 army officers, relatives and crew members on board, the government said yesterday.

The Defence Minister, Sani Abacha, ordered an investigation into the crash, the cause of which was not immediately known.

The Hercules C-130 aircraft disappeared from the radar of Lagos's Murtala Muhammed Airport three minutes after take-off at 5pm on Saturday, the statement said. The crash was not confirmed until yesterday morning, when bodies were found floating in the swamp, in a village 16 to 20km (10 to 12 miles) outside Lagos. Reporters said 15 bodies had been pulled from the wreckage. The entire nose and one wing of the aircraft were buried in the swamp.

Most of the passengers aboard the plane were senior officers from a military college in Jaji Town, near Kaduna, who had gone to Lagos for a navy celebration, sources said.

An airline pilot at the scene said the weather had been clear and visibility good at the time of the crash. He believed the cause of the crash to be engine failure.

The government statement said that the president, Ibrahim Babangida, a former student of the Jaji military college, was cancelling all engagements for a week, including festivities on Thursday marking independence from Britain.

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