Russia’s Defense Ministry says a cargo plane operated by the Russian military has crashed in Syria, killing at least 39 people on board.
The ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that 33 passengers and six crew members were on board the plane when it crashed while landing in Hmeimim airbase in the western Syrian province of Latakia.
“On March 6, Russia’s Antonov-26 transport plane crashed at about 15:00 Moscow time as it was about to land at Hmeimim airdrome… Nobody survived,” the ministry’s statement said.
Russia has maintained military presence in Syria since late 2015, when Damascus asked Moscow to intervene in the war on terror in the country.
The assistance has proven very essential for Syria as it has managed to retake many areas from militants, relying on Russia’s air cover.
Hmeimim is the main base used by the Russian military in Syria while it also accommodates flights carrying Russia’s humanitarian aid and other cargos.
The Russian Defense Ministry said later that it had launched an investigation into the incident, which it said was caused by a technical malfunction. It said preliminary data received from the site of the crash, about 500 from the runway, proved that there was no terrorist incentive involved.
An initial statement from the defense ministry had said 32 people were killed in the crash. The ministry also said all those killed were Russian military personnel.
This is the second time an An-26, a military transport aircraft capable of carrying up to 38 passengers and some 5,500 kilograms in cargo, crashes in Syria. A Syria-operated one crashed while landing at the besieged Abu al-Duhur military airport in Idlib in January 2015.