Page last updated at 15:32 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Mexico City jet crash toll rises


Emergency services at the scene of the crash in the centre of Mexico City

The number of people killed in a plane crash in central Mexico City in which Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino died has risen to 13.

The ministry plane - a Learjet - burst into flames as it came down during rush-hour in the financial district at about 1900 local time (0000 GMT).

US and British experts would help in a "meticulous and detailed" probe which could take weeks, officials said.

Correspondents describe Mr Mourino, who was 37, as a rising political star.

"We have 13 bodies. We are investigating to see if another woman has also died," prosecutor Miguel Angel Mancera told Mexican television.

President Felipe Calderon paid tribute to Mr Mourino, whom he called "one of my closest collaborators and one of my best and closest friends".

A former assistant attorney general, Jose Luis Santiago, and other senior advisers were also killed.

Juan Camilo Mourino, file pic

The cause of the crash remains unknown, and Mr Calderon said his government would "carry out all necessary investigations to find out the causes of the tragedy".

At a news conference, Communications Minister Luis Tellez appeared to rule out any signs of foul play.

"So far, we have not detected any indications that suggest a hypothesis other than that it was an accident," he said.

Mr Mourino had been in charge of security during the government's violent battle with Mexico's powerful drug cartels, and his death is a big blow, says BBC Americas analyst Warren Bull.

About 3,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since the start of the year, and the country's kidnapping rates are among the highest in the world.

'Enormous explosion'

The interior ministry officials had been returning to Mexico City from an event in the city of San Luis Potosi when the plane went down.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said the crash had killed all those on board.

He added that more people might have died on the ground as a number of cars were destroyed when the plane crashed.

"It's likely that we will find other bodies in the vehicles," Mr Ebrard told Mexican television.

At least 40 people were admitted to hospital with injuries.

"The explosion was enormous," an eyewitness told AFP news agency.

"The flames reached higher than the buildings on La Reforma", the witness added, referring to the main street in the city's financial district.

Police and ambulances attended the crash scene as firemen battled to bring the blaze under control.

Correspondents say Mr Mourino had come under recent pressure over allegations he had acted improperly by signing government contracts on behalf of his family's car fuel business while in office. Mr Mourino had denied any wrongdoing.

Mr Santiago, who had previously been in charge of pursuing extraditions against drug smugglers, had reportedly been the target of at least one planned assassination attempt.

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