27 killed in military plane crash
Kazakhstan's acting border service chief was among 27 people killed in a military plane crash near a southern city, it has emerged.
It was another blow to the agency, which appointed Colonel Turganbek Stambekov to the role in June to deal with the aftermath of a mass killing involving a conscript.
The Russian-made An-72 crashed at 1255 GMT 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 Stambekov, the statement said.
Without specifying further details, authorities said an investigation was opened into the Christmas Day crash.
No cause was given, but southern Kazakhstan over recent weeks has been buffeted by winds, heavy snows and low temperatures, causing widespread flight delays.
Col 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.
The border service has come under close scrutiny in Kazakhstan since the killings, which many argued showed the lack of readiness and professionalism among serving troops. Legislation approved by the upper house of parliament and supported by Col Stambekov last week was designed to improve the process for selecting conscripts for the service.
The Kazakh-Uzbek border stretches 1,350 miles of Central Asian steppes and deserts.