The death toll in an Iranian military aircraft Antonov-74 crash at Tehran's Mehrabad International airport early Monday increased to 39, including 30 members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, police sources said.
Gen. Eskandar Moemeni, a deputy police chief, told reporters that the death toll had increased to 39 after three of the wounded had died in hospital.
"An engine failure and subsequent veering from the runway resulted in the crash," he added.
Chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, did not rule out sabotage but added it was "too soon to elaborate on the cause of the crash until the investigations are over."
Ahmad Haghtalab, a Revolutionary Guards high-ranking officer, revealed the search for the black box was still ongoing. "The plane crashed at the end of the runway, at 7:12 local time(03:42 GMT) and burst into flames," he said.
In a report from the official IRNA news agency, a Revolutionary Guards source said that one of the plane's engines caught fire immediately after leaving the runway.
Head of the Presidential Office and government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham arrived at the scene of the Antonov-74 plane crash to personally supervise the transfer of victims for proper burial, said a latest report of IRNA.
Earlier, the Revolutionary Guards issued a statement and said some 30 Guards members and six crewmembers on board were killed, while another two had survived and were immediately hospitalized. An earlier state television report had the body count at 38.
Due to chaotic information dissemination among different sources, the number of dead has been consistently updated.
The Antonov-74 plane, belonging to the Revolutionary Guards, crashed shortly after taking off from Mehrabad International airport, said the television.
The plane was heading toward Shiraz in the south of Iran when the disaster took place, it said.
The television report said some high-ranking officers of the Revolutionary Guards were among the dead, but the IRNA, citing the Revolutionary Guards source, said the plane carried no military commander.
In recent years, Iran has seen a spate of air crashes due to a lack of spare parts and inadequate maintenance of aircraft.
An Iranian C-130 aircraft, bound for the Gulf seaport city of Bandar Abbas, crashed on Dec. 6, 2005, in a residential area and hit a 10-story apartment block, killing 108 people.
On Jan. 9, a small Falcon jet also belonging to the Revolutionary Guards crashed in Iran's northwestern border province of West Azerbaijan.
(Xinhua News Agency November 28, 2006)