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Libyan jet crashes, killing 158, apparently after mid-air collision

TRIPOLI, Libya -- A Libyan commercial jetliner on an internal flight from Benghazi to Tripoli apparently collided in mid-air with a military plane Tuesday and crashed southeast of the capital, killing all 158 people aboard, the Libyan news agency JANA reported.

The Libyan Arab Airlines Boeing 727, which left the eastern city of Benghazi about 9 a.m., was approaching Tripoli at 10:07 a.m. when it apparently collided with a Libyan military plane near the town of Souk al-Sabt, about 35 miles southeast of the capital, JANA said.

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An airline official could not confirm the collision but said the reports of a mid-air crash were still under investigation, the agency said. The agency quote residents of the capital as saying the crew of the military aircraft survived by parachuting to the ground.

The passengers aboard the plane included foreigners, but JANA did not specify their nationalities. The agency said a list of passengers would be released by the airline later. The report said the crash site was in a sparsely populated area.

A spokesman for the Libyan civil aviation authority said earlier he had been forbidden to release any information about the crash, including the type of plane, the report said.

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Libyan Arab Airlines has been restricted to domestic flights since the United Nations imposed sanctions on Libya in April.

The sanctions, which include an air blockade, were imposed after Libya refused to hand over two of its citizens accused by Western investigators of involvement in the mid-air explosion aboard Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, which killed 270 people.

Also included in the sanctions is a ban on sales of aviation spare parts to Libya, which a senior Libyan official has said was putting the lives of passengers at risk.

In November, Maj. Abdel Salam Jalloud, second-in-command to Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gadhafi, told Libya's equivalent of a Parliament: 'Flights of Libyan Airlines are about to stop...Every day there are dozens of flights on which passengers are in danger because of the lack of spare parts and maintenance. This is mass murder.'

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