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The BBC's Tom Gibb
"President George W Bush described the incident as a tragic accident"
 real 56k

The BBC's Tom Gibb
"US involvement in the deaths is bound to raise questions"
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Sunday, 22 April, 2001, 05:43 GMT 06:43 UK
US spy plane in Peru shooting
missionary plane
The plane was equipped to land on water
The United States said that it helped to locate a plane carrying US missionaries, which was later intercepted and shot down by a Peruvian Air Force jet on Friday.

army plane
The Peruvians thought the plane carried narcotics
A mother and baby were killed when the plane was shot down over Peru's Amazon jungle region on Friday in the belief it was smuggling drugs.

Washington said an unarmed US anti-drugs surveillance plane provided the data to the Peruvian Air Force. Surveillance flights had since been suspended.


I will wait to see all the facts before I reach any conclusions about blame

George W Bush
A State Department official said: "Peruvian authorities are responsible for identifying aircraft and deciding on any action.

"We are working closely with Peruvian authorities to determine exactly how this tragic incident occurred."

Suspicious aircraft

President George W Bush said earlier that he was keeping an open mind on who was to blame.

"I will wait to see all the facts before I reach any conclusions about blame. But right now, we mourn for the loss of a life, two lives," he said at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec.

The Peruvian Defence Ministry expressed "deep regret" over the deaths, but said the plane was intercepted after it ignored international-recognised warnings, leading to suspicions that it was involved in drug-trafficking.

US surveillance planes routinely pass information about suspicious aircraft to the Peruvian authorities.

Drug smugglers

Missionary plane pilot Kevin Donaldson has confirmed that he had not filed a flight plan.

Missionary Veronica "Ronnie" Bowers, 35, and her seven-month-old adopted daughter, Charity, were both killed.

Mr Donaldson was wounded. Also on board but unhurt were Mrs Bowers' husband, Jim Bowers, 35, and their six-year-old son Cory.

The jungle area where the plane was shot down is close to the border with Colombia, where left-wing guerrillas and drug smugglers are active.

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See also:

21 Apr 01 | Americas
Peru shoots down US aircraft
17 Feb 01 | Americas
Peru set to be drug leader
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