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U.S. military plane crashes in Kyrgyzstan

From Clare Sebastian, CNN
May 3, 2013 -- Updated 1923 GMT (0323 HKT)
A KC-135 tanker flies over Chicago in 2004.
A KC-135 tanker flies over Chicago in 2004.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The status of the three crew members is unknown, the U.S. 376th Air Expeditionary Wing says
  • Manas is a supply hub for U.S. forces in Afghanistan
  • The United States says the "status of the crew is unknown"
  • The crash took place in a mountainous region

Moscow (CNN) -- An American military refueling plane took off and crashed in Kyrgyzstan on Friday, Kyrgyz and U.S. officials said.

"The status of the three crew members is unknown," the U.S. 376th Air Expeditionary Wing said in a news release.

The plane was a U.S. Air Force KC-135 tanker aircraft, according to the expeditionary wing's Public Affairs Transit Center at Manas, near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The crew and aircraft are assigned to the transit center.

The Manas transit center is a U.S. airbase that serves as a supply hub for American forces in Afghanistan. It is located at the Manas airport.

The plane crashed in a mountainous area between Chorgolu and Cholok-Aryk -- two villages in the Chuysky region of northern Kyrgyzstan, and a fire crew and three ambulances responded, Elmira Shyrypova, at the Kyrgyz Emergencies Ministry press office.

The transit center said investigators are determining the cause of the crash and emergency responders were on the scene

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Jantoro Satybaldiev held an emergency meeting in connection with the crash, state media reported.

Sharshenaliev said debris from the crash was scattered over an area of about a kilometer radius. He said witnesses calling in on a hotline said they saw a parachute when the plane was falling. Others said they saw an explosion and the plane was broken in half.

CNN's Yousuf Basil and Barbara Starr contributed to this report

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