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Crew of downed Colombian army plane found dead


10:01, July 13, 2012

BOGOTA, July 12 (Xinhua) -- The two-member crew of a Colombian Army airplane missing since Wednesday has been confirmed dead, Colombian Air Force Commander General Tito Pinilla told reporters Thursday at a press conference.

One of the bodies was in the hands of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgent group, which contradicted the army's report by claiming they have shot down the aircraft, and the other was found at the crash site, Pinilla said.

"We found the burnt airplane, one of the bodies is at the site of the accident, the other is in the hands of the FARC,"Pinilla said.

The rebels agreed to hand over the body to a delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sometime Thursday, Pinilla said.

The army's Brazilian-built Super Tucano low-flying warplane was reported missing Wednesday after its signal disappeared from the radar during anti-rebel combat. It was later found in a remote area of southwestern Cauca province, where fighting has intensified recently between the army and the leftist rebels.

Televised images of the plane's charred remnants in a mountainous zone were broadcast by the local RCN channel.

"We are going by the theory that it was an accident," and not rebel fire that brought down the plane, as the FARC said Wednesday, Pinillo said

The cause would "have to be investigated," he added.

The crew members were identified as Lieutenant Andres Serrano, 29, and Oscar Castillo, 33, both active members of Colombia's air force with ample flying experience.

The ICRC delegation left for the area early Thursday to receive the body, said Valeria Stutter, ICRC's representative to the region.

"We received a phone call last night (from the FARC) asking us to look for the people inside the plane. A team departed this morning," Stutter told reporters.


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