Civilian aircraft crashes in Iraq

A civilian cargo aircraft has crashed south of Falluja in central Iraq, almost certainly killing all seven people on board, officials have said.

It crashed shortly after take-off after a “malfunction”, the US military said.

Witnesses said the plane took off from Habbaniya base in Anbar province but was seen in flames before crashing.

It was reportedly chartered by a German firm and was not carrying US soldiers or crew, although the nationalities of those on board remained unclear.

“It was a malfunction. It lost radio contact, then it crashed. We have no information on the fate of the crew,” one US military spokeswoman said.

A damage assessment was being carried out, but it was unlikely that any of the six crew and one baggage handler had survived, another military official said.

“It looks like everybody was lost,” he told the Reuters news agency.

Iraqi police told the Associated Press that the plane, which took off near Falluja, crashed in the desert without causing Iraqi casualties.

The area around Falluja was once a hotbed of Iraq’s Sunni insurgency, but there was no suggestion the plane had come under attack before crashing.

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