x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Mexico's interior minister dies in plane crash

The Mexican interior minister is among eight people killed when a plane crashes in the centre of Mexico City.

MEXICO CITY // A small plane crashed in a wealthy Mexico City neighbourhood today, killing the nation's powerful interior secretary and at least seven others. Juan Camilo Mourino, 37, was one of President Felipe Calderon's closest advisers, but has been embroiled in scandal since taking office in the midst of Mexico's violent fight against drug cartels. He was in charge of the country's security. "With his death, Mexico has lost a great Mexican, intelligent, loyal and committed to his ideals and his country," Mr Calderon told a news conference. "I ask all Mexicans that they don't allow any event, no matter how difficult or painful, to weaken them in the pursuit of a better Mexico." Presidential spokesman Max Cortazar said Mr Mourino and a group of advisers were returning from an event in the city of San Luis Potosi when the plane went down. Officials say the crash appeared to be an accident, but Mr Calderon said his administration would await for the results of a full investigation. The Learjet 24 set fire to about two dozen vehicles on a street in the posh Lomas de Chapultepec neighbourhood in an area filled with tall office buildings. Officials evacuated about 1,800 people from area offices. Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said all those aboard the plane were killed and that more people may have died on the ground. "It's likely that we will find other bodies in the vehicles," Mr Ebrard told the Televisa news network. Hundreds of police, firefighters and soldiers swarmed the scene, which was littered with the burnt-out hulks of vehicles and pieces of what appeared to be bodies. Eight bodies were recovered and at least 40 people were injured, seven of them seriously. Mr Calderon listed eight people who had died, including assistants and spokespeople for Mr Mourino, but it was unclear whether all the bodies recovered were from the plane. The bodies were too badly burnt to be immediately identified. Also aboard the plane was the former assistant attorney general Jose Luis Santiago, who was previously in charge of pursuing extraditions against drug traffickers, and who had been the target of at least one planned assassination attempt in the past. Civil aviation officials were investigating the cause of the crash. Transportation Secretary Luis Tellez told local media that no distress signal had been registered from the plane. Mr Mourino was one of the most controversial officials when he joined Calderon's Cabinet in January because of his family's involvement with private contracts to Mexico's state-owned oil company, precisely at a time when Mr Calderon sought to open up the legal framework for more such contracts. *AP