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Indonesian plane crashes, at least 68 dead

AN Indonesian military plane carrying more than 100 people crashed and burst into flames today, killing at least 68 people, officials said.

Dozens of people were injured and more were feared dead, with local television flashing footage of fire engulfing the wreckage and soldiers carrying bodies on stretchers. Some were badly burned.

Air force spokesman Bambang Sulistyo said the C-130 Hercules, carrying 112 passengers and crew, was on a routine training mission when it crashed near an air force base in East Java province. It smashed into four houses in Geplak village, before skidding into a rice field.

"We heard a loud explosion," Wardi, a villager who goes by only one name, told El-Shinta radio. He said the plane was shaking before it tumbled to the ground and appeared to have split in two.

The death toll stood at 68, said Suyono, a spokesman at the air force base in East Java province, adding that he expected the number to climb.

The country's air force has long complained of being underfunded and handicapped by a recently lifted U.S. ban on weapons sales. It has suffered a series of accidents, including a Fokker 27 plane that crashed into an airport hangar last month, killing all 24 onboard.

A series of commercial airline crashes in recent years has killed more than 120 people in Indonesia.


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