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Tom Mintier: Plane crash in remote location

CNN's Tom Mintier
CNN's Tom Mintier  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A U.S. Marine Corps KC-130 military refueling plane carrying seven Marines crashed into a mountainside Wednesday in western Pakistan as it prepared to land at a base at Shamsi, U.S. officials said.

CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier is in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, and spoke with CNN anchor Judy Woodruff about the crash.

MINTIER: The Pakistani government confirmed the crash of this KC-130. ... A Pakistani official said most of the information, if not all will, come out of the Pentagon. It was a U.S. aircraft en route from Jacobabad, Pakistan. This is about 450 kilometers out of Quetta, southwest of Quetta.

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It is at Shamsi, which is one several Pakistani air bases that are being allowed to be used by the United States for logistical operations since after September 11 when Pakistan agreed to assist in the war on terrorism.

The Pakistanis provided several of these air bases, and Jacobabad was one that had several demonstrations outside it when the first U.S. military planes started making their routes in there and out.

According to the Pentagon, as you said, seven U.S. Marines were on board. Reports on the ground are that the plane was trying to make a landing at this Shamsi air base, and an eyewitness on the ground reported that it was indeed on fire before it crashed into the mountainside.

[We have] scant details because it is approaching midnight in Pakistan. Rescue crews are on the way to the scene. It is ... on the side of a mountain. So it is going to be extremely difficult to get into that area. It's about an eight-hour car drive away from Quetta to give you some idea how long it takes to get to this location -- a very remote location.

The KC-130s indeed have been used for refueling throughout this air campaign in Afghanistan, with most of that logistical support coming from several air bases in Pakistan.

WOODRUFF: Tom, we know that early on in the war there was at least one incident of hostile fire there in Pakistan. But is the sense now that it is unlikely that this could have been the result of hostile fire because of where it happened?

MINTIER: Well, it's really going to be difficult to say until the investigation is completed. But according to the people in the Pentagon, the early word is no enemy fire was detected. [The officials say] that the plane was on fire before it crashed into the mountainside which is, any time you fly, always a danger and difficulty with that much fuel in the air and that this was a refueling aircraft -- additional danger in the air not just at the time of an accident.

So the investigators are going to be looking very closely to see what indeed may have caused this crash. I'm not sure about the KC-130, but I think it might have had the ability to launch countermeasures if indeed there was the possibility of something being launched from the ground. But so far, the early word out of the Pentagon is that no hostile fire was apparently involved in this -- that it simply crashed into the mountainside after catching on fire.




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