Bomb caused crash of Panama plane

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The Independent Online
PANAMA CITY (Reuter) - A bomb caused the crash of a plane on an internal flight in Panama that killed 21 people, most of them Jewish, Panama's President-elect, Ernesto Perez Balladares, said yesterday.

In an interview in Washington, where he is visiting, Mr Perez said Panamanian authorities were doing their best to find out who was responsible for Tuesday's crash. 'The only objective information that we have is that apparently it was not an accident but a planted bomb inside the plane,' said Mr Perez. 'Who is the author, we have no idea. It is regrettable, totally unacceptable, and we will do our best to pursue whoever is behind this,' he said.

Panama's Jewish community called for an exhaustive investigation. The Israeli embassy said 12 of the victims on the flight were Jewish and at least four were Israeli.

News of the crash, which killed all 21 aboard including two crew members, sparked concern among Jews mindful of Monday's bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community centre that killed 37 people. Uruguayan police yeterday detained an Iranian citizen for questioning about the blast in which at least 37 people died. The 31-year-old Iranian had lived legally in Uruguay since 1986.

A witness of the crash in Panama said that he saw the twin-engine commuter plane explode as it flew in heavy rain in a mountainous jungle area near Colon on a flight to Panama City. 'I was working in the area when I heard a big explosion and saw a fireball,' Armando Mendoza, a farmworker, said.

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