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Search Continues for Plane Carrying Colombian Minister - 2003-02-08

Rescue workers in the Colombian mountains are continuing the search for a small plane that was lost while carrying a government minister.

More than 100 rescue workers and 18 helicopters were sent out early Saturday, to search for Minister of Social Welfare Juan Luis Londono.

The plane carrying Mr. Londono and four others broke off contact with air traffic controllers shortly after take-off on Thursday.

Workers have not reported finding any trace of the plane. But officials admitted for the first time Saturday they believe the plane was involved in a crash.

Workers are focusing the search near the village of Cajamarca, in a mountainous region west of the capital, Bogota.

The search for the plane has been postponed several times because of fog, bad weather, and the presence of leftist guerrilla soldiers in the area.

On Friday, one rescue helicopter was shot by presumed guerrillas, but its crew managed to land safely.

Government soldiers are being sent to the region to ensure the safety of rescue crews.

There is no evidence that guerrillas were involved with the missing plane.