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11 killed, including top Libyan fighter, as medical flight to Tunisia crashes from engine fire

Tunisian investigators examine the site of a Libyan Antonov 26 aircraft that crashed near the village of Benyanou at 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Tunis, the capital, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. A medical flight from Libya crashed in a field near Tunis in the early hours of Friday morning, killing all 11 Libyans on board, Tunisia's civil defense said. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

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Tunisian investigators examine the site of a Libyan Antonov 26 aircraft that crashed near the village of Benyanou at 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of Tunis, the capital, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. A medical flight from Libya crashed in a field near Tunis in the early hours of Friday morning, killing all 11 Libyans on board, Tunisia's civil defense said. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

TUNIS, Tunisia - A medical flight from Libya crashed in a field near Tunis before dawn Friday after an engine caught fire, killing all 11 Libyans on board, Tunisia's civil defence said.

According to Libyan security officials, the dead included Miftah Daoudi, a founder of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group that helped to overthrow the dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Daoudi, who held a position in the Ministry of Martyrs and the Wounded in one of Libya's transitional governments, had been travelling to Tunis for medical treatment when the plane crashed. Daoudi had spent more than a decade behind bars in the notorious Abu Selim prison before winning freedom on the eve of Libya's civil war.

Defence spokesman Tawfik Rahmouni told Tunisia's state news agency that the crew contacted Tunis-Carthage airport to report that one of the plane's engines had caught fire, then communication was lost.

The plane crashed in flames at 1:45 a.m. in Grombalia, a sparsely inhabited farming region 40 kilometres (25 miles) southeast of Tunis, the capital. Army units and civil protection services extinguished the fire and extracted bodies.

Monji el-Kadhi, the Tunisian civil defence spokesman, confirmed 11 people were aboard the Russian-built Antonov 26, a twin-engined turboprop aircraft, which started its journey at Tripoli's Mitiga airport. Officials could not confirm the age of the aircraft, but records indicate the last aircraft of that model was built in 1985.

Libyan Transportation Minister Abdelkader Mohammed Ahmed told journalists in Tripoli the plane had four crew members and seven passengers, among them a doctor, a nurse and two people seeking medical treatment in Tunis.

Amateur video showed images of the charred ruins of the aircraft with its tail bearing Libyan colours.

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Associated Press reporter Esam Mohammed in Tripoli, Libya, contributed to this report.

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