Bishkek - Rescuers on Saturday recovered the bodies of
two US pilots whose refuelling plane crashed in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan,
shortly after taking off from a base that serves as a hub for military
operations in Afghanistan, the emergency situations ministry said.
The KC-135 Stratotanker - believed to be carrying dozens
of ton of fuel - crashed and burst into flames around 50km west of the capital
Bishkek on Friday, according to US and local officials.
"The bodies of two pilots were found this morning at
07:00 near the site of the crash. The search operation is continuing, the body
of the third crew member has not yet been found," a spokesperson for the Kyrgyzstan
emergency situations ministry told AFP.
The two bodies have been taken to the aircraft's US base,
the Manas transit centre, rescue officials said.
Emergency Situations Minister Kubatbek Boronov told
journalists that "the American side is establishing the identity of the
dead. Staff from the Manas transit centre are at the scene. They will also
investigate the cause of the air incident."
Around 50 rescuers were still searching for the third
crew member, Boronov said.
The rescue operation resumed in the early morning after
being called off during the night, as little hope remained of finding the crew
alive after the plane broke up and burst into flames soon after taking off from
the US base at Bishkek international airport.
The Manas transit centre is key to the US campaign in
Afghanistan, used to ferry troops into the country, refuel warplanes and
evacuate wounded soldiers.