Thursday, May 23, 2013
Last Updated: 22 May 19:22 PM IST
26 December 2012
ALMATY, 26 DEC: All 27 people on board a Kazakh military jet that crashed while carrying the Central Asian state's top border guard personnel have died, the state security service said today.
“All 27 occupants of the aircraft, including seven crew members, have perished,” the National Security Service (KNB) said in a statement.
The victims included the acting head of the Kazakh federal border service Turganbek Stambekov and his wife, the statement said.
The plane crashed about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Shymkent airport where it had been due to land after a flight from the capital Astana.
Kazakhstan's KTK television said the plane fell from a height of 800 metres. Witnesses also reported hearing a loud explosion at the time of the crash.
Footage of the crash site aired on Kazakh state television on today showed only fragments of the An-72 military transport plane remaining on the ground.
Khabar state television also cited local residents as saying that a heavy winter storm had descended on the region at the time of the crash.
The KNB statement said the senior security team, which also included the heads of the country's regional border guard services, had been flying to an end-of-year security meeting in Shymkent.
The border guard service of Kazakhstan ~ a vast resource-rich nation nestled between China and Russia ~ experienced a number of setbacks during the past year.
Its acting head Stambekov was appointed to his post in June after his predecessor was fired following a May incident in which 14 border guards were shot dead in a remote outpost in the south of the country.
The sole border guard to survive the incident confessed during a subsequent trial that he killed his colleagues.
He retracted that confession after his life sentence, saying that the post was shot at by unidentified people in civilian clothes.
Aviation disasters remain a scourge across the former Soviet Union due to ageing hardware that often has not been replaced since the fall of the Soviet regime, as well as human error.
In November, eight people were killed in Kazakhstan when a Russian-made Mi-8 helicopter crashed while carrying out a pipeline surveillance mission.