NOUAKCHOTT, MAURITANIA (BNO NEWS) -- A military plane chartered by Canadian gold miner Kinross crashed shortly after takeoff Thursday in the African country of Mauritania, killing all seven people on board, officials said on Friday. The cause was not immediately known.
The accident occurred at around 7:45 a.m. local time on Thursday when the Harbin Y-12 aircraft was taking off from the international airport in Nouakchott, the country's capital. The plane belonged to the Mauritania Air Force but had been chartered by Kinross Gold to carry gold from its Tasiast mine.
"All passengers and crew members, seven of them in total, were killed," Mauritania's National Defense Ministry said in a brief statement on Friday. The victims were identified as three military crew members, two customs officers, and two contract security guards working on behalf of the Tasiast mine.
Few details about the accident were released, but two photos distributed by the country's state-run news agency showed the wreckage had been destroyed by a fire with only the tail left intact. The crash site was located in a field a short distance from the runway at Nouakchott International Airport.
The National Defense Ministry said it has launched an investigation into the cause of the crash, but gave no other details. There were no reports of severe weather at the time of the accident, but several witnesses said the aircraft caught fire just seconds after it took off from the runway.
Thursday's accident was the country's worst aviation accident since May 1998 when a military transport plane went down after taking off from an airport in Nema, some 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) from Nouakchott. It followed the crash of an Air Mauritania passenger plane in Tidjikja in July 1994, killing as many as 94 people.
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