Kazakhstan's acting border service chief was among 27 people killed in a military plane crash today near a southern city, authorities said. The An-72 crashed at 7:55am EST 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.
Without specifying further details, authorities said an investigation was opened into the crash. 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 for the killings. (Read more Kazakhstan stories.)