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 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 21:52 GMT
Kenyan minister killed in plane crash
Friends
Friends of a crash victim pray outside Nairobi Hospital
A light aircraft carrying new government ministers has hit power lines and crashed shortly after taking off in western Kenya.

Labour Minister Ahmed Khalif and two pilots were killed in the accident in Busia.

Several other passengers - who included at least three other ministers - are injured, some badly, and are being airlifted to hospital in the capital Nairobi.

The officials had been visiting Busia as part of celebrations for the election victory late last year of the National Rainbow Coalition.

President Mwai Kibaki, who is himself in hospital for treatment relating to a car crash during the election campaign, said an investigation was under way.

He said the nation was united in prayers for the families of the crash victims, according to Kenyan KBC television.

If you look at the wreckage you couldn't believe anybody came out of it, it was badly mangled

MP Moses Wetangula
Eye witnesses say the survivors were pulled from the wreckage, some unconscious.

Lina Chebii Kilimo, from the office of the vice-president, was "out of danger", her brother told Nation TV after speaking to her in hospital.

The minister for water, Martha Karua, was injured in the crash but "looks like she will pull through," MP Moses Wetangula told the TV station from the scene of the crash.

George Khaniri, an MP and Martha Koome, chairwoman of the Kenyan chapter of the International Federation of Lawyers, were both reported to be seriously injured.

Others aboard were said to include Raphael Tuju (information and tourism), Robertson Githae (assistant minister of constitutional affairs), and Dr Wanyiri Kihoro (head of Abantu, a non-governmental organisation).

Shock and horror

Also speaking on television, Home Affairs Minister Moody Awori described the circumstances of the crash.

"The plane was taking off at 6 o'clock [1500 GMT], for one reason or another it was unable to gain height.

cabinet ministers
The new ministers were sworn in earlier this month
"It veered off the runway and crashed at about 500 metres from the runway. It must have crashed on an abandoned or an empty house.

"I have no technical explanation why it so happened."

The BBC East Africa correspondent in Nairobi, Ishbel Matheson, says that Kenyans have been reacting with shock and horror to the news.

She says the accident looks certain to dampen the mood of great optimism in Kenya since the election.

The new cabinet was inaugurated earlier this month.

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  The BBC's Ishbel Matheson
"Military aircraft have been sent to transport the injured to hospital"
Kenyans choose a new president

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30 Dec 02 | Africa
06 Jan 03 | Africa
04 Jan 03 | From Our Own Correspondent
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