Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Mexican minister killed in crash


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

Mexican Interior Minister Juan Camilo Mourino has been killed along with seven others when his ministry plane crashed in central Mexico City.

The Learjet burst into flames as it came down during rush-hour in the heart of the capital's financial district at around 1900 local time (0000 GMT).

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

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

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

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".

Officials say they have not detected any signs of foul play, and the crash appears to have been an accident.

Juan Camilo Mourino, file pic

But Mr Mourino had been in charge of security during the government's violent battle with powerful drug cartels, and his death is a big blow to the government, 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 may 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 gasoline business while in office.

Mr Mourino 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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