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U.S. Plane Crashes in Afghanistan; 3 Killed

War: The MC-130 does not seem to have been hit by hostile fire, officials say. Seven are injured.


WASHINGTON — An Air Force combat plane carrying 10 crew members and passengers crashed Wednesday shortly after taking off from a military base in Afghanistan, killing three on board, U.S. defense officials said.

The other seven people on the MC-130 were transferred to a military medical facility in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar for treatment. The bodies of the three who were killed were recovered at the site, the Pentagon said.

Military officials did not know what caused the 9:30 p.m. crash about 40 miles southwest of the city of Gardez, but they said the four-engine, propeller-driven Combat Talon aircraft did not appear to have been struck by hostile fire.

The crash occurred in a mountainous region where U.S.-led coalition forces have been searching for Al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts.

The Pentagon is investigating the crash. The names of those on board were being withheld.

Before Wednesday, 37 U.S. service members had been killed in and around Afghanistan since the war began in October, said Marine Lt. Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman. Of those, 18 were killed in action, including 15 by hostile fire and three in a "friendly fire" incident. The rest died in aircraft and other accidents and, in at least one case, apparent suicide.

Those figures exclude CIA agent Johnny "Mike" Spann, who was killed in November in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The Combat Talon is a version of the C-130 cargo plane modified for combat use by Special Forces. It is designed to penetrate hostile airspace at low altitudes to pick up and drop off troops and supplies. It is equipped with special night-flying capability, can be refueled in midair and land on short runways.

Earlier versions of the aircraft were used in the attempted rescues of Americans at a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp in 1970 and of American hostages in Iran in 1980. The plane delivered Army Rangers to Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989. C-130s were used as bombers in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

Before the latest incident, a dozen Americans had died in Afghan-related air crashes. The downing of a CH-53E Super Stallion copter killed two Marines in northern Afghanistan on Jan. 20.

An air tanker crashed in Pakistan on Jan. 9, killing seven Marines. An F-14 Tomcat fighter jet crashed during training in the Mediterranean Sea, killing a Navy pilot March 2. And a Black Hawk helicopter went down in Pakistan on Oct. 19, killing two soldiers.

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