Bodies of two US pilots found after Kyrgyzstan crash

The wreckage is scattered across a wide area of mountainous terrain

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The Kyrgyz government says it has found the bodies of two US pilots after a military refuelling plane crashed in the Central Asian state on Friday.

Search teams found the remains on Saturday morning, the emergencies ministry told news agencies.

The search for the third member of the plane's crew was continuing.

The KC-135 Stratotanker vanished from radar over mountains some 160km (100 miles) west of Bishkek where it had taken off.

Witnesses said they saw the plane, believed to have been laden with fuel at the time, explode in mid-air.

The wreckage was scattered across a wide area.

Cause unclear

Officials at the US base at Manas, outside the capital Bishkek, have released no information on the cause of the crash.

Kyrgyz officials said the plane had taken off from Manas with some 70 tonnes of fuel on board.

It crashed at around 15:00 local time (09:00 GMT), disappearing from radar near the village of Chaldovar.

Map

Kyrgyz media quoted some witnesses as saying they saw at least one pilot escape the burning plane. Doubt has been cast over the reports as the plane, like other cargo aircraft, did not have ejector seats.

An unnamed defence official in Washington told the Associated Press that the plane had been on a refuelling mission to Afghanistan.

Manas has been used by the US military since 2001 as a hub for its operations in Afghanistan.

The United States is leasing the facility for $60m (£38.6m) a year and wants to extend the lease beyond its end date of June 2014. Kyrgyzstan is reluctant to extend the lease, saying the presence of the base is a threat to its security.

Seven crew members died when a US civilian Boeing 747 cargo plane crashed at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan on Monday.

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