MANILA — A Philippine Air Force plane with 92 soldiers and crew members aboard crashed on the southern island of Jolo on Sunday, officials said. At least 17 people were killed, and it was feared that the toll would climb.
The head of the Philippine armed forces, Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, said the plane missed a runway while trying to land. He said it crashed near a village called Bangkal in the town of Patikul, a stronghold of the militant group known as Abu Sayyaf. He said 40 people had been rescued.
“We are doing our best effort to rescue the passengers, our ground commanders are already there,” General Sobejana said. “They are trying their best to put out the fire. So far we have 40 people rescued and being treated.”
Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, a top commander in the region, said 17 bodies had been recovered.
The plane, a C-130 Hercules, was carrying at least 84 soldiers, three pilots and five crew members, as well as five military vehicles, officials said. The C-130, an American-built turboprop, is used by militaries around the world and is sometimes kept in service for decades.
The plane that crashed on Sunday first flew in 1988, and it was used by the United States Air Force until it was sold to the Philippines in January, according to the Philippine Air Force and a website that tracks C-130s worldwide.
The Philippine military has been trying to modernize its aging fleet. Earlier this month, a newly acquired Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a night training flight, killing six people onboard.
That crash happened about two months after another helicopter, an MG-520 attack chopper, crashed in the central Philippines, killing its pilot. And in January, a refurbished UH-1H Vietnam War-era Huey helicopter also crashed in the south, killing seven soldiers.
In 2008 a Philippine Air Force C-130 crashed into the sea shortly after taking off from Davao City on the southern island of Mindanao, killing nine crew members and two passengers aboard.
The soldiers on the plane that crashed Sunday were being flown to Jolo to bolster the military’s operations against Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamist group that the Philippine government considers a terrorist organization.
A faction of Abu Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was blamed for the January 2019 bombing of a cathedral on Jolo, which was carried out by an Indonesian couple and killed at least 23 people. The Philippine authorities believe a similar attack near the cathedral in 2020, which left 14 dead, was perpetrated by the same Abu Sayyaf faction. Its leader, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, is since thought to have been killed, and the military has been ramping up its operations against the group in hopes of eliminating it.
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