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Iran: Hundreds Of Elite Troops Die In Plane Crash

Tehran, 19 February 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The official Islamic Republic News Agency reports that 302 people, all military personnel, were killed when an Iranian military plane crashed in southeastern Iran. The Russian-made airliner went down on Wednesday on the outskirts of the village of Balbuyeh, some 80 kilometers from Kerman, as it was preparing to land in the city on a flight from the town of Zahedan.

Ali Moulavi Haqiqi, the Bassij commander for Sistan-Baluchistan Province, said that all of those aboard were members of the Bassij militia of the elite Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Zahedan is the capital of Sistan-Baluchistan Province.

Earlier reports carried by the state media had said 270 people had been on board at the time of the crash.

Rescue teams were dispatched to the crash site to investigate the crash and collect the remains of the passengers. The cause of the crash is unknown.

State radio and television said that air traffic controllers lost contact with the aircraft this afternoon.