Malawi vice president, 9 others killed in a plane crash, president says

Malawian Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine others aboard a small military plane were killed when the aircraft crashed in a mountainous area in the southern African nation, the country’s president said Tuesday.

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera announced in a live address on state television that the plane was found after more than a day of searching the dense forests and hilly terrain near the northern city of Mzuzu.

“I’m deeply saddened. I’m sorry to inform you all that it has turned out to be a terrible tragedy,” Chakwera said. “The search and rescue team has found the aircraft near a hill … they have found it completely destroyed with no survivors.”

Chilima, 51, was aboard the plane with former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former President Bakili Muluzi, along with five other passengers and three military crew members, the president said.

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The group was traveling to Mzuzu to attend the funeral of a former government minister. Chilima had just returned from an official visit to South Korea on Sunday.

The plane went off the radar during what was supposed to be a 45-minute flight from Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, to Mzuzu. Chakwera said that air traffic controllers had lost contact with the plane after telling the pilot to avoid landing at Mzuzu’s airport and to return to Lilongwe due to bad weather and poor visibility.

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The search for the plane involved around 300 police officers, 200 soldiers and local forest rangers, according to authorities.

Chilima was serving his second term as vice president. He was also in the role from 2014-2019 under former President Peter Mutharika.

Chilima had previously been facing corruption charges, but prosecutors dropped those charges last month. Chilima had denied any wrongdoing.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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