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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Recovery Teams Head for Site of U.S. Plane Crash

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- American and Pakistani recovery teams converged Thursday on a mountainside where a U.S. military tanker plane that may have been carrying nearly a full load of fuel crashed and exploded into flames, killing all seven Marines on board.

The wreckage lay 5 kilometers from the Pakistan military's Shamsi air base, a forward operations point used by the U.S. military in the war in neighboring Afghanistan. The area was sealed off by the Pakistani military, and residents saw helicopters flying overhead Thursday.

The area is in the southwestern province of Baluchistan, an extremely remote area of rugged mountains and vast deserts.

In Kandahar, Afghanistan, where the Marines have established a base, spokesman First Lieutenant John Jarvis said the plane was on its final approach to the Shamsi airfield. It had been on the first of what normally would be four refueling stops per mission, so it likely had an almost full cargo of fuel.

A military team was heading from the Marine base at Kandahar to Shamsi to investigate, Jarvis said, echoing statements from the Pentagon that there had been no indication of hostile fire. He had no information on any weather factors, either. "We're going to do everything we can to find out what caused the accident," Jarvis said. "Recovery is going to be tough. It's very tight terrain -- mountainside, not vehicle accessible. It's going to be tough going up to the point the accident occurred."

Marine staff in Kandahar observed a moment of silence.

The seven deaths were the worst U.S. casualty toll from the war in Afghanistan and included the first American woman killed, Sergeant Jeannette Winters, 25, of Du Page, Illinois.

The KC-130 Hercules took off from Jacobabad, Pakistan. The Marines normally use the KC-130 for in-flight refueling of helicopters and for troop and cargo delivery, evacuation missions and special operations support. It typically carries a six-man crew of two pilots, a navigator, flight engineer, mechanic and loadmaster.

The only other fatal crash of a U.S. military aircraft during the war in Afghanistan was an Army Black Hawk helicopter that went down in Pakistan on Oct. 19, killing two Army Rangers.

U.S. warplanes Thursday struck at an al-Qaida guerrilla complex in eastern Afghanistan, as extra U.S. ground troops were moved into the area, a Pakistan-based Afghan news agency reported.

The private Afghan Islamic Press said the attacks were focused on Zhawar, 30 kilometers southwest of Khost, while several helicopters ferried in about 50 U.S. ground troops to eastern Khost, taking the total number of U.S. personnel in the area to about 150.

"American jets began bombing the area overnight and continued into Thursday morning. There was no information about casualties," said AIP, quoting unnamed sources.

(AP, Reuters)