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Afghan Minister, 7 Others Believed Dead in Pakistan Plane Crash - 2003-02-24

A chartered Cessna aircraft carrying an Afghan minister and seven other people has crashed in southern Pakistan. All the people on board are believed to have died..

Aviation officials say the small Cessna aircraft crashed into the Arabian Sea soon after take-off from the southern city of Karachi. The plane was carrying five members of a senior Afghan delegation, including the minister for mines, Juma Mohammad Mohammadi. The other victims were a Chinese business executive and two Pakistani crewmembers.

The Pakistani Navy says it has found the wreckage of the aircraft about 50 kilometers from Karachi, and bodies of at least six victims have been recovered. A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aziz Ahmed Khan, told reporters in Islamabad that the cause of the crash has yet to be determined. "It is a very unfortunate accident," he said. "The government of Pakistan has expressed its condolences to the government and people of Afghanistan on this sad tragedy. We are trying to recover all the bodies."

The Afghan minister and his colleagues were in Pakistan for talks on a proposed gas pipeline project from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and into South Asia.

Pakistani spokesman Khan said that members of the Afghan delegation were also planning to visit a mine project owned by a private Chinese company in the southwestern province of Balochistan. "They were on a private part of their visit to go and see this operation, because they also were interested in getting the exploration of minerals in Afghanistan," he said. "So they wanted to go and visit this project which the Chinese company is undertaking in Balochistan."

This is the second plane crash in Pakistan in less than a week. A military transport plane crashed Thursday in the northwest of the country, killing all 17 on board, including the Pakistani air force chief.