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68 Killed in Kyrgyzstan Plane Crash


Kyrgyz officials say a passenger plane has crashed shortly after taking off from the capital, Bishkek, killing 68 people on board.

The Boeing-737 jet was headed to Iran's capital, Tehran, with 90 passengers and crew on board. About 10 minutes after takeoff Sunday, it crashed in a field near Bishkek's airport and burst info flames. Officials say only 22 people survived.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov says the plane suffered a sudden loss of cabin pressure, forcing the pilot to attempt an emergency landing.

Government spokeswoman Rosa Daudova says the plane was carrying 24 Kyrgyz citizens, 52 Iranians, three Kazakhs, two Canadians, one Chinese and one Turkish national.

The Kyrgyz passengers included 17 members of a school basketball team, of whom only seven survived.

U.S. military authorities at a nearby air base sent firefighters and medical staff to the crash site to help with the rescue effort.

The plane belonged to Itek Air, a Kyrgyz airline banned by the European Union from operating in EU airspace because of safety concerns.

Kyrgyz officials say the Boeing-737 was built in 1979 and was in good condition when it was inspected a few weeks ago.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.