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5 dead as French reconnaissance plane crashes in Malta

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A reconnaissance plane working for France’s defence ministry crashed in a ball flames at Malta’s international airport on Monday, killing all five people on board, officials said.

The plane plummeted into the ground shortly after takeoff, killing the five French nationals on board.

The Maltese government said in a statement that there was no indication of an explosion prior to the crash but did not rule out sabotage, saying an investigation was under way into possible causes.

The French defence ministry said the plane had been working on its behalf, carrying out “reconnaissance missions in the Mediterranean”. Three of those who died were employees of the defence ministry, the two others worked for the company which flew the plane, the ministry said.

The Maltese government, which had described those on board as working for a French “customs” operation, said the aircraft was a Fairchild Metroliner Mark III registered in the US and leased to a Luxembourg company, CAE aviation.

It took off around 7.20 am local time. Shortly afterwards it was seen plunging nose-first towards the ground and exploding into a ball of flames.

“Official information, footage and eyewitnesses, including three members of the Armed Forces of Malta at the nearby barracks, and two commercial airline pilots, clearly indicate that there was no explosion prior to impact,” a government statement said.

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