U.S. military airplane on training mission crashes in Albania; all nine aboard believed killed.

     

TIRANA, Albania Mar 31, 2005 — A U.S. military airplane crashed in central Albania while on a training mission Thursday, and nine American personnel aboard were believed to have been killed, the Defense Ministry said.

The plane had taken off from Tirana`s Mother Teresa Airport and crashed on Driza Mountain in the district of Gramsh, 50 miles southeast of capital, Tirana, Defense Ministry spokesman Agim Doci told The Associated Press.

Doci said officials believe that the nine people aboard, all Americans, were killed.

He said the plane was taking part in joint exercises with the Albanian military.

Pentagon spokesman Jim Turner said he had no immediate information on the crash but U.S. official were looking into the reports. NATO officials in Tirana were not immediately available for comment.

The Albanian News24 television station reported that the location of the crash was remote and hard to reach, adding that a helicopter was seen circling the area.

Residents said an explosion caused by the crashing plane felt “like an earthquake,” the station said.

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