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Rebels Shoot Down Afghan Plane, 53 Die

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Associated Press

Radio Kabul reported today that Afghan guerrillas using a U.S.-made Stinger missile shot down an Afghan passenger plane and that 53 of the 55 people aboard were killed.

The report from the Afghan capital, monitored in Islamabad, quoted Afghanistan government officials as saying the Soviet-built Antonov-26 aircraft was shot down at 6:30 p.m. as it flew from Kalat state in Pakistan to Kabul.

The aircraft was hit by “a Stinger missile made in the United States of America,” said a statement by the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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“The rocket fired at the aircraft is the gift of the foreign imperialists and reactionary forces,” said the radio.

Women, Children Listed as Dead

The 53 dead included passengers and the crew of the aircraft, among them 16 children and 10 women, the radio said.

The Foreign Ministry claimed the plane was carrying “civilian passengers” but did not say whether it had markings of the Afghan air force or the armed forces.

The Afghan government frequently uses Antonov-26 aircraft for carrying armed forces personnel. These aircraft are also deployed on surveillance missions, Western diplomats in Islamabad said.

At least two Afghan transport planes have been shot down near the border. One was downed Feb. 9 and 43 people were killed.

On March 30, another Antonov-26 craft was shot down by a Pakistani jet fighter and 30 people were reported killed. Pakistan said the plane intruded into Pakistan’s airspace and was shot down when it refused to land.

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Both Said to Carry Civilians

Afghanistan has insisted both planes were carrying civilians.

The Antonov-26 is a short-range airlift transport that usually has five crew members and carries about 40 passengers.

No guerrilla group claimed responsibility for shooting down the plane today.

The United States and Pakistan have provided aid to the guerrillas in their fight against government. The Kabul government is backed by 115,000 Soviet troops that moved into Afghanistan in 1979.

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