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Investigators Search for Clues in Dubai Plane Crash That Killed 6

Investigators in the United Arab Emirates searched for clues Thursday into what caused a Sudanese Boeing 707 cargo plane to crash shortly after takeoff north of Dubai, killing its six-member crew.

The UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority is leading the investigation into Wednesday's accident. It has not released any preliminary findings into what went wrong.

Abdel Hafez Abdel Rahim, a spokesman for the Sudanese Civil Aviation Authority, said two investigators from the African nation are heading to the Emirates to take part in the probe. He declined to speculate about the cause of the crash.

"There is no word yet. It is too early to speak about the causes," he said.

Sheik Khalid al-Qassimi, director of the Sharjah department of civil aviation, said he had no new information to provide when reached by The Associated Press.

Emirates officials say Sudan Airways flight 2241 went down at 3:1 p.m., two minutes after takeoff from Sharjah International Airport. It was bound for the Sudanese capital Khartoum and was carrying "general cargo" with a crew of six.

Witnesses described seeing the plane veer sharply to the right as it struggled to gain altitude before crashing nose first into the ground.

"It couldn't have been any more than 300 or 400 feet off the ground," said Bill Buchanan, a Dubai resident who saw the accident. "You could see it wasn't going to get any higher."

The plane came down in an uninhabited stretch of desert next to a golf course, avoiding residential areas nearby. No casualties were reported on the ground.

The runway was shut briefly for inspection immediately following the crash, forcing eight incoming flights to be diverted, according to an airport statement. It has since reopened.

Once one of the main airports in the lower Gulf, Sharjah airport is now mostly used by cargo operators and low-cost carriers. Air Arabia, the Mideast's biggest budget airline, is based at the airport.

Dubai International Airport, the Middle East's busiest, is located about 10 miles southwest of Sharjah airport.

The crash was the second for Sudan Airways in less than a year and a half.

In June 2008, a Sudan Airways Airbus A310 skidded off the runaway upon landing in Khartoum and burst into flames, killing at least 30 people. More than 170 others escaped.

Sudan has a poor aviation safety record. In May 2008, a plane crash in a remote area of southern Sudan killed 24 people, including key members of the southern Sudanese government. In July 2003, a Sudan Airways Boeing 737 en route from Port Sudan to Khartoum crashed soon after takeoff, killing all 115 people on board.

Although operated by Sudan Airways, the aging four-engine plane in Wednesday's crash was owned by another Sudanese company, Azza Transport.

Neither company could be reached for comment.

In 2007, Azza was implicated in a United Nations report that accused the Sudanese government of violating a U.N. arms embargo by flying military aircraft, weapons and ammunition into conflict-ravaged Darfur by disguising planes to look like U.N. aircraft.

The report included a photo of a plane the U.N. said was operated by Azza but owned by another airline. Its cargo, which was unloaded by the Sudanese armed forces, included two howitzers and between 40 and 50 wooden boxes suspected of containing arms and ammunition, the report said.

Sudan's U.N. ambassador at the time blasted the panel's allegations as "fabrications" and called for an investigation into the findings.