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Russian cargo plane crash kills 40 in South Sudan

Crash of 1971 Russian-built plane in South Sudan comes as militants in Egypt renew claim of responsibility for last week's desert crash
A still of footage from the scene shows the tail end of the destroyed aircraft (Twitter / @airlivenet)

At least 40 people were killed on Wednesday when a Russian-built cargo plane crashed in South Sudan just after takeoff.

Only two people survived the crash, a member of the stewarding crew and a toddler who was on board, according to statements from the South Sudanese president’s office.

Armenia said in the hours after the crash that five of its citizens, who had been part of the plane’s crew, were killed in the disaster.

The local branch of the Red Cross Society said on Wednesday afternoon it had recovered 37 bodies, with some still trapped under the wreckage.

The plane, a Russian-made Antonov AN-12BK built in 1971, came down just 800 metres after leaving the runway of Juba International Airport in the South Sudanese capital.

There is no indication as yet as to what may have caused the disaster.

The latest aviation disaster came as an investigation into Saturday’s plane crash in the Egyptian desert indicated that a technical fault was to blame.

A decoding of the plane’s two black boxes showed that a massive explosion in the plane’s fuel tank may have caused the crash, an Egyptian judicial source taking part in the investigation told Egyptian news site al-Masry al-Yaum on Wednesday.

The size of the blast may have taken out all the aircraft’s engines at once, the anonymous source said, which would explain why no distress signal was sent before the plane crashed, killing all 224 people on board.

The Russian company that owned the plane, Metrojet, has previously denied that a technical fault or pilot error could have led to the disaster.

Wednesday’s statements by Egyptian officials came hours after militants based in the Sinai Peninsula, where the plane came down, renewed a claim that they had downed the plane.

Shortly after the crash militants linked to Islamic State claimed responsibility for the disaster, though aviation experts were quick to point out that the group does not have the technical capacity to bring down a passenger jet at cruising altitude.

The group on Wednesday released a sound clip entitled “We downed the Russian plane,” pledging to disclose the equipment used in the alleged attack “at the desired time”.

Egypt has dismissed the militants’ claims of responsibility, with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday calling them “propaganda” designed to “harm the stability and security of Egypt, as well as [our] international image”.