TEHRAN, Iran, AP – A small military jet crashed in northwestern Iran on Monday, killing the commander of the ground forces of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards and at least 12 other people, state media said.
It was the second time in two months that a military plane crashed in Iran while attempting to make an emergency landing.
In Monday’s crash, the plane was trying to make an emergency landing at Oroumieh, about 560 miles northwest of Tehran near the Turkish border, when its landing gear jammed, preventing the wheels from being fully deployed, state media reported.
The reports did not explain why the plane was trying to make an emergency landing.
The Guards commander who died was identified as Gen. Ahmad Kazemi, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, quoting Guards spokesman Gen. Masoud Jazayeri. The agency said 10 other military officers also were killed.
In addition, state television said two crew members were killed. However, the news agency and state radio said the plane had a crew of three. The discrepancy could not be immediately explained.
State television said the plane was a Falcon jet and was owned by the Guards. It was made by the French company Dassault.
Kazemi, a veteran of the 1980-88 war with Iraq, was appointed commander of the Guards’ ground forces in August in a reshuffle after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office.
The Revolutionary Guards are a separate organization to the regular Iranian armed forces. Founded after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Guards have their own air, naval and ground components. Ahmadinejad is a former commander in the Guards.
Iran has a history of aircraft accidents involving a heavy loss of life. The government has blamed the U.S. trade embargo which makes it impossible for Iran to buy parts for its old U.S.-built aircraft. But critics have also said planes are poorly maintained.
On Dec. 6, a military transport plane crashed into a 10-story apartment building near Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, killing 115 people. The plane, a U.S.-made C-130, had suffered engine trouble and the pilot was returning to the airport when the aircraft suddenly lost height and slammed into the building. Most of the passengers were Iranian journalists.
In 2003, a Russian-made Ilyushin-76 carrying Guards members crashed in the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 people.
In 2002, a Russian-made Tupolev Tu-154 struck snow-covered mountains in western Iran, killing all 119 people on board.