Philippine military plane crashes with 96 people on board
MANILA – A Philippine Air Force plane with 96 soldiers and crew on board crashed on the southern island of Jolo on Sunday, officials said. At least 45 people were killed, including three civilians on the ground, and the death toll was feared.
The Chief of the Philippine Armed Forces, General Cirilito Sobejana, said the plane missed a runway as it tried to land and crashed near a village called Bangkal in the town of Patikul , a stronghold of the militant group known as Abu Sayyaf.
The military said 42 people on the plane had been confirmed dead, 49 others injured and five others still missing.
“We remain hopeful of finding more survivors,” Major General William Gonzales, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said in a statement.
Military officials said in addition to the three civilians on the ground who were killed, 53 others were injured.
Soldiers from the plane that crashed on Sunday were flown to Jolo to bolster military operations against Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamist group that the Philippine government considers a terrorist organization.
“They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism,” General Gonzales said. “These individuals were supposed to report to their battalions today.”
In addition to the 96 people on the plane, a C-130 Hercules, there were also five military vehicles, officials said. The C-130, an American-built turboprop, is used by militaries around the world and is sometimes maintained in service for decades.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he had “ordered a full investigation to shed light on the incident, as soon as the rescue and recovery operation is completed.”
The plane that crashed on Sunday made its first flight in 1988, and it was used by the U.S. Air Force until it was sold to the Philippines in January, according to the Philippine Air Force and a website that tracks C-130s around the world.
The Philippine military has attempted to modernize its aging fleet. Last month, a newly acquired Black Hawk helicopter crashed during an overnight training flight, killing six people on board.
The crash happened about two months after another helicopter, an MG-520 attack helicopter, crashed in the central Philippines, killing its pilot. And in January, a refurbished UH-1H helicopter from the Vietnam War crashed in the south, killing seven soldiers.
In 2008, 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 on board.
The Philippine army has struggled for years against a stubborn insurgency in the south of the country.
A faction of Abu Sayyaf, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was accused of the bombing of a cathedral in Jolo in January 2019, which was carried out by an Indonesian couple and left at least 23 dead. Authorities in the Philippines believe a similar attack near the cathedral in 2020, which left 14 people dead, was carried out by the same Abu Sayyaf faction.
Its leader, Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, has since been reportedly killed, and the military has stepped up operations against the group in hopes of eliminating it.
Austin ramzy contributed reporting from Hong Kong.