JUBA, South Sudan (AP) — A cargo plane taking off from the South Sudanese capital of Juba crashed along the banks of the Nile River, killing at least 25 people, witnesses and a government said. An Associated Press reporter at the scene of the crash saw the bodies, including those of children. Parts of the plane were scattered in a bushy area dotted with a few homes on the east side of the Nile. Packages of cheap sandals, cigarettes, beer and crackers were strewn amid the wreckage.
Bashir Yashin, who saw the plane come down, said it seemed as though initially the plane might crash into a market area before the pilot apparently diverted it. Another witness, Angelo Kenyi, said a child, who looked no more than a year old, and an elderly woman were pulled from the fuselage.
Presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny said the plane had been bound for the Paloch oil fields in Upper Nile state. Rebels and government forces have been battling for control of Upper Nile state. Juba, the capital, has been peaceful recently.
The Antonov plane crashed shortly after taking off Wednesday morning, Ateny said. He gave no more details.
It was not clear if any of the victims had been on the ground.
Planes could still be seen taking off and arriving at the airport in Juba as people gathered near the crash site about 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from the airport.
Many parts of South Sudan, which became an independent nation in 2011, have been hit by violence since December 2013, with government forces under President Salva Kiir battling rebels led by his former deputy, Riek Machar. Fighting persists despite a peace agreement signed in August.
Juba, where the violence started, is now peaceful.
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