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Nigerian Officials Investigate Military Plane Crash

Investigations have been launched into Sunday's military plane crash in central Nigeria. At least 12 out of the 17 on board are feared dead.

The wreckage of the Nigerian air force Dornier 228 aircraft was located late Sunday in Benue state, in central Nigeria.

Defense ministry officials confirmed Monday that an investigation into the cause of the crash has started.

The aircraft had 17 people on board, mostly senior army officers who were going to attend a series of meetings organized by the Nigerian army.

The plane left Abuja Sunday morning southward bound for Obudu Cattle Ranch, a mountainous holiday resort near Nigeria's southeastern border with Cameroon. It crashed in Benue, less than 20 minutes before its scheduled landing.

Initial reports had suggested that there were some survivors. But defense spokesman Felix Chukwuma says the number of casualties was not yet clear.

"There is a crash, an air force Dornier 228, en route from Abuja to Obudu, senior officers of the Nigerian army on their way to a retreat in Obudu. We want to confirm the number of casualties we have there and, in due course of time, I will release the names," he said.

Top Nigerian military commanders have paid tribute to the officers, describing them as some of the best in the army.

President Olusegun Obasanjo who was due to address the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Monday, has reportedly cut short his visit to Singapore and is returning to Nigeria.

Two air disasters in Nigeria last year killed more than 200 people, prompting questions about the safety of Nigerian aircraft.