KHARTOUM, Sudan A Russian-made cargo plane crashed near the Khartoum airport on Monday shortly after takeoff from the Sudanese capital, killing all four crew members, a spokesman for the country's civil aviation authority said.
It was the second plane crash in Sudan in a week and the third this month.
The plane hit an electricity pole shortly after takeoff and then crashed into an empty field, bursting into flames, said Sudan's state Omdurman radio.
The Ilyushin 76 plane was headed for the south Sudanese capital of Juba, and the cause of the crash and nature of its cargo were not immediately clear, said Abdel Hafez Abdel Rahim, a spokesman for the country's civil aviation authority. It hit the electricity pole as it was already crashing, he said.
The plane's blackened tail landed just a few yards from a group of apartment buildings. Youssef Yacoub, a security guard at a nearby building, said the plane was already on fire as it plunged down.
"There was smoke at its tail. It crashed and then blew up about 10 minutes later," Yacoub said.
Twisted metal, tires and pots and pans from the cargo were scattered over a construction site for a new residential compound. Security forces cordoned off the crash site and major streets leading to the area. Residents said electricity went off for about an hour.
Sudan, Africa's largest country, has a poor aviation safety record and many small airlines that crisscross its sprawling terrain. Three years ago, the government said it planned to build a new airport in Khartoum by 2010 but that remains in the planning phase.
The head of Sudanese police, Gen. Mohammad Najib, told The Associated Press there should be an inquiry into the recurring plane crashes.
"This is something that must be looked at closely," he said.
Russia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying one of the victims was Russian, and Russian radio stations reported the other crew were from Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. U.N.-operated Miraya Radio said the plane belonged to a private Sudanese company, Ababiel.
Later Monday, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir fired the chief of the country's Civil Aviation Authority, Gen. Abu Bakar Gaafar, and banned Russian-made cargo planes from operating in Sudan's civil aviation, the state SUNA news agency said. It made no mention of the use of the Russian-made planes by Sudan's military.
On Saturday, seven people were killed and one survived when a Russian-made Antonov plane operated by Juba Cargo crashed in southern Sudan. Earlier in June, an Airbus A310 caught fire after touching down at Khartoum's airport, killing 30 people on board. Another 178 escaped.