Sri Lankan air force plane crashes, killing 40

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The Independent Online

A Sri Lankan air force plane leased from a Ukrainian company crashed with a flaming engine during an attempted landing Thursday, killing four Russian crew members and all 36 military personnel aboard, air force officials said.

A Sri Lankan air force plane leased from a Ukrainian company crashed with a flaming engine during an attempted landing Thursday, killing four Russian crew members and all 36 military personnel aboard, air force officials said.

The AN-26, bringing troops home on leave from the battlefront, developed engine trouble after departing from Palaly air base, 185 miles north of the capital, Colombo, the air force said.

Instead of flying on to Colombo, the pilot tried to land at Thalawa, 90 miles north of the capital, said Wing Cmdr A. Wijesundera, an air force spokesman.

Just before the crash, the pilot reported one of his two engines was on fire, said Wijesundera.

Air force officials said all aboard the plane had died.

The air force leases several planes from a Ukrainian company that uses Russian crews, said an air force spokesman. He gave no further details on the arrangement.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam - fighting a guerrillas war since 1983 to create a homeland for the Tamil minority in the northeast - have in the past shot down several military aircraft.

More than 61,000 people have been killed in the war.

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