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South African army plane crashes, kills 11

01:16 Fri Dec 7 2012

A South African military aircraft on an unknown mission to an area near former President Nelson Mandela's village has crashed in a mountain range, killing all 11 people onboard, officials say.

The Douglas C-47TP Dakota, a twin-propeller aircraft, had taken off from Pretoria's Waterkloof Air Force Base on Wednesday morning, said Brigadier General Xolani Mabanga, a military spokesman.

The aircraft encountered bad weather in flight and failed to make its 10am landing.

On Thursday morning, soldiers found the wreckage in the Drakensberg mountains near Ladysmith in KwaZulu-Natal province, some 340 kilometres southeast of the air base, Mabanga said.

The Drakensberg, which in the local Afrikaans language means Dragon Mountains, have the highest peaks in South Africa, reaching to a height of about 3400 metres.

In a statement on Thursday, South Africa's Defence Department said an investigation would begin into the cause of the crash, which killed six crew members and five passengers.

The statement did not explain what the aircraft had been doing, nor did it name those killed in the crash.

Siphiwe Dlamini, a Defence Department spokesman, did not immediately respond on Thursday to a request for more information about the crash.

Mthatha is about 30 kilometres north of Qunu, the village where Mandela now lives after retiring from public life.

South Africa's military remains largely responsible for the former president's medical care.

However, military officials declined to say whether those on board had any part in caring for Mandela.

In November, another South African military flight crash-landed at Mthatha, injuring several people.

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