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20 or 21 reported dead in Kazakhstan plane crash

ALMATY, Kazakhstan >> A passenger jet carrying at least 20 people crashed Tuesday near Kazakhstan’s principal city, Almaty, killing all on board, the airline and officials said.

The SCAT airline said the plane carried 15 passengers and five crew. The Kazakh Prosecutor-General’s office said 21 people were aboard.

Officials said the plane, flying in from the northern city of Kokshetau, disappeared from radar view at around 13:13 p.m. local time (0713 GMT). The airline said the pilot was making a second approach through heavy fog when the plane crashed about five kilometers (3 miles) from the airport.

The Emergencies Ministry said the plane was a Bombardier CRJ200, a two-engine regional jet that can accommodate about 50 passengers.

SCAT said the cause for the crash will not be determined until flight recorder data are examined.

The General Prosecutor’s Office said it is opening a criminal investigation into the airline.

Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov ordered the creation of a state commission to investigate the crash.

This is the second major aircraft accident recently in Kazakhstan. In December, 27 people died when an An-72 military plane crashed near the southern city of Shymkent during violent snowstorms.

SCAT, which is based in Shymkent, is banned from flying within the European Union. The company operates regional flights within Kazakhstan, a country of 16.5 million people spread across an area four times the size of Texas.

Only one airline in Kazakhstan, state-owned Air Astana, is authorized to fly to the EU.

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