Plane crash in Malta kills five people on surveillance operation

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Five people have been killed in a plane crash in Malta, the Malta International Airport has confirmed.

(CNN) — Five people were killed when a light aircraft on a French customs surveillance operation crashed in Malta on Monday.

The Maltese government said the plane was taking part in an operation to track illicit trafficking routes, including human and drugs trafficking. The Fairchild Metroliner crashed at 7:20 a.m. local time on Monday, Malta International Airport said.

“Our thoughts are with the families of the people involved in the accident today,” the airport said in a statement.

The Maltese government later said that an investigation was under way. It said in a statement: “The flight was part of a French Customs surveillance operation which has been taking place for the past five months, with the aim of tracing routes of illicit trafficking of all sorts, including human and drug trafficking amongst others.

“The said flight was registered with the Malta Air Traffic Services as a local flight and was to return to Malta within hours without landing in third countries.”

The statement said that information gathered from eyewitnesses clearly suggested that there was no explosion before impact.

The plane was registered in the United States to a company called Worldwide Aircraft Services. The Maltese government said it had been leased to a Luxembourg company.

Earlier reports that EU border officials were on board the plane but the EU Foreign Affairs Chief, Federica Mogherini tweeted to say no EU officials were involved in the crash.