Indonesian jet crashes; 117 killed

JAKARTA, Indonesia – An Indonesian jetliner crashed into a crowded residential neighborhood in the city of Medan shortly after takeoff today, killing all 117 on board and an unknown number on the ground, officials said.

The Mandala Airlines Boeing 737 was heading to Jakarta when it crashed one minute after takeoff and burst into flames, said Transport Minister Hatta Radjasa.

“They have all died,” said Edi Sofyan, a government spokesman in Medan. There were also casualties on the ground, he said, though he did not know how many.

Medan, the country’s third largest city, has been a major staging point for tsunami relief operations in Aceh province, which occupies the northern tip of Sumatran island. The international airport is close to the center of town and is surrounded by densely populated residential areas.

Mandala Airlines is a Jakarta-based domestic carrier founded in 1969 by a military-run foundation. Its 15-plane fleet consists mainly of 1970s-vintage Boeing 737-200 jets. In recent years, the financially troubled airline has been forced to cut services and fares to remain competitive.

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