Ten Nigeria Generals Perish

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(Obasanjo declares national mourning).

Ten Nigerian generals were among 12 people killed in a plane crash in the West African country, an air force spokesman said Monday.

President Olusegun Obasanjo called Sunday's crash a "monumental national tragedy" in a statement and ordered three days of national mourning. He cut short his visit to Singapore, where he was attending annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, after receiving news of the crash.

The plane was carrying 18 people when it crashed southern Nigeria, said Air Force spokesman Capt. Emeka Ozoemena. He said all 12 of the dead were military officers and 10 of them were generals. Nigeria's finance minister had previously said that 17 people were aboard the craft.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear, and Ozoemena called it "too early to speculate." Ozoemena said that names of the dead would be released later Monday after families were informed. The army officers were on their way to a military retreat in the southeastern town of Obudu when the plane crashed in southern Benue state. Nigeria has had several fatal air crashes in the last two years, claiming the lives of hundreds of passengers on commercial airlines. Sunday's crash was the deadliest for the military since 1992, when an aircraft plunged into a creek a few minutes after take off, killing 192 officers on board.

The military has been a major force in Nigerian politics, deposing civilian leaders several times. Obasanjo himself once ruled as a military dictator. He first won elections arranged by a military junta in 1999 and was re-elected in 2003.

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