MOSCOW - Kazakhstan's acting border service chief was among 27 people killed in a military plane crash Tuesday near a southern city, another blow to the agency after he was appointed in June to deal with the aftermath of a mass killing involving a conscript.
The Russian-made An-72 crashed at 12:55 GMT (7:55 a.m. Philadelphia time) about 12 miles away from the city of Shymkent near the border with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan's Committee for National Security said in a statement.
The fatalities included a crew of seven and 20 border guards, including the acting head of the ex-Soviet nation's border protection service, Col. Turganbek Stambekov, the statement said.
Authorities said an investigation was opened. No cause was given, but southern Kazakhstan over recent weeks has been buffeted by winds, heavy snows and low temperatures, causing widespread flight delays.
Stambekov was appointed acting head of the border service in June, after a mass killing of 14 frontier troops in a remote Kazakh outpost near China the month before. Vladislav Chelakh, a 20-year-old conscript, was sentenced earlier this month to life in prison after being found solely responsible.
The border service has come under close scrutiny in Kazakhstan since the killings, which many argued showed the lack of readiness and professionalism among troops. Legislation approved Thursday by the upper house of parliament and supported by Stambekov was to improve the process for selecting conscripts for the service.