A US military plane has crashed in Kyrgyzstan shortly after taking off from the Transit Center at Manas, an airbase that supplies coalition forces in Afghanistan. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The KC-135 military refueling plane crashed on Friday minutes after taking off from a US airbase outside the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
"According to my information, the plane broke up into three pieces. Information on the dead or wounded is being clarified. All the rescue services have gone to the scene," said the Kyrgyzstan Emergencies Ministry's press secretary, Abdisharip Bekilov .
A ministry statement said the plane crashed Friday afternoon near the village of Chaldovar, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from the Transit Center at Manas, a US-leased airbase key to the war in Afghanistan.
"The chassis, the fuselage have all been extinguished and now we are searching for the crew members and the plane's black box," ministry official Bolot Sharshenaliyev said.
"There are three crew members," Sharshenaliyev said. "According to preliminary information, it flew from Bishkek and was on its way to Afghanistan, with approximately 70 tons of fuel on board."
Established in 2001, the Transit Center at Manas is used for troops flying into and out of Afghanistan and for tanker planes that refuel warplanes in flight. The US government leases the base for $60 million (45 million euros) a year. The lease expires in 2014.
hc/slk (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)