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Eleven dead in S. African military plane crash: reports

A military plane has crashed in South Africa’s mountainous east, killing 11 people, several media said Thursday, with one unconfirmed report saying the victims were members of Nelson Mandela’s medical team.

The Dakota air force plane, which crashed late Wednesday, was transporting medics making a routine visit to the 94-year-old anti-apartheid icon at his rural hometown, according to the EWT news agency.

An army spokesman contacted by AFP could not confirm or deny the report.

“I was informed that the carcass (of the plane) has been found,” said Xolani Mabanga. “I will give more information later, when I receive information from the team on the ground.”

The plane had reportedly left Pretoria for Mthatha, a small airport in the Eastern Cape province that is the closest to Mandela’s rural homestead of Qunu, where he has lived since retiring from public life.

Rescue helicopters were dispatched to the mountainous region after the plane was reported missing, but had to be called back because of bad weather, reports said.

Ground rescue teams were also sent to the area.