MANILA, Philippines (AP) – A Philippine Air Force C-130 plane carrying troops crashed in a southern province after missing the runway on Sunday, killing at least 17 servicemen while at least 40 were rescued from the burning wreckage, officials said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said rescue efforts are continuing. He said the plane had 92 people on board, including three pilots and five crew members. The others were soldiers.
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was one of two former US Air Force planes handed over to the Philippines as part of military assistance this year. It crashed on landing shortly before noon Sunday in the village of Bangkal in the mountainous town of Patikul in Sulu province, Chief of Staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana said.
The plane was carrying troops from the south of the town of Cagayan de Oro, Sobejana said. Government forces have been fighting Abu Sayyaf militants in the predominantly Muslim province of Sulu for decades. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear.
“It is very unfortunate,” Sobejana told reporters. “The plane missed the runway and was trying to regain power but failed and crashed.”
Sobejana said at least 40 people on board were taken to a hospital and troops were trying to save the rest.
It rained in the central Philippines, but it was not immediately clear whether the weather in the Sulu region had been affected. Jolo Airport, the main town of Sulu, is located a few kilometers (miles) from a mountainous area where troops fought Abu Sayyaf. Some activists have aligned themselves with the Islamic State group.
The United States and the Philippines separately blacklisted Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organization for bombings, kidnappings for ransom and beheadings. It has been considerably weakened by years of government offensives but remains a threat.