10 Dead in British Plane Crash

A British C-130 (search) military transport plane crashed Sunday north of Baghdad, scattering wreckage over a large area, officials said. At least 10 troops were killed, Britain's Press Association news agency said.

The crash occurred at around 5:25 p.m. about 20 miles northwest of Baghdad, a spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense (search).

Press Association quoted unidentified military sources saying the death toll was "around 10" and it was "highly unlikely" to be more than 15. A Ministry of Defense spokesman said late Sunday that military officials were still trying to reach families of those involved.

There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash, which occurred about a half hour after polls closed in Iraq's elections.

Prime Minister Tony Blair (search) confirmed there were deaths in the crash, but didn't say how many as he paid tribute to the casualties in a televised speech praising Iraq's election. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives today. They can be so proud of what their loved ones accomplished. This country and the wider world will never forget them," he said.

The plane was flying from Baghdad to the town of Balad, a U.S. military official said. Helicopters were at the scene and observing the wreckage, which was scattered over a large area, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A spokeswoman from the Royal Air Force's Lyneham base in Wiltshire, southwest England — home of the plane and its crew — was not able to confirm how many people were on board.

Britain's Royal Air Force flies several versions of the American-built C-130 Hercules aircraft, which is mainly used to carry troops, passengers and freight. The older C-130K model has a crew of five or six and carries up to 128 troops. The newer C-130J version has a crew of three and can also carry up to 128 infantry. The RAF has some 60 Hercules aircraft, about half of which are newer planes.

The British military has reported 76 deaths since the start of the Iraq war. Six British crew members and on American were killed when two Royal Navy helicopters crashed over the northern Persian Gulf on March 22, 2003.