A military aircraft carrying senior Kazakh security officials crashed today killing all 27 passengers on board, reports say.
The aircraft disappeared from radar shortly before 1pm and was completely destroyed after going down near the city of Shymkent in the south of Kazakhstan, local emergency services told the Ria news agency.
Those killed in the crash included a crew of seven, 20 border guards and the acting head of the ex-Soviet nation's border protection service Colonel Turganbek Stambekov, Kazakhstan's Committee for National Security said.
Eyewitnesses said they saw the plane fall from a height of 800m (2,600ft) during a raging blizzard, causing a loud explosion and fire on impact.
"There was no need for rescuers' help. Only fragments remain," the head of Kazakhstan's regional emergencies department Valikhan Derezhepov said.
Colonel Stambekov had only been appointed to his post in June in the aftermath of a mass killing of 14 border troops in a remote Kazakh outpost near China.Reuse content