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Iran Press TV

Venezuela military aircraft crashes on Colombia border

Iran Press TV

Fri Sep 18, 2015 5:0PM

Caracas says a Venezuelan military plane has crashed near the border with Colombia while monitoring an illegal flight into the country, amid an ongoing border dispute between the two neighboring South American states.

Venezuela's Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said in a Friday statement that before its crash, the Sukhoi-30 detected an "illicit aircraft that entered the northwestern part of the country headed south toward the border with Colombia."

"Gangs in the area are trying to use our territory to traffic drugs produced in Colombia to Central America and the Caribbean," added the minister.

No immediate details were available on the potential cause of the incident or the fate of the plane's two crew members.

Venezuela's Defense Ministry also said an investigation has been launched into the causes of the incident, while search is underway to find the pilots.

The crash came in the midst of a deepening border conflict between Venezuela and Colombia.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of all crossings connecting the two countries after unidentified assailants attacked the Venezuelan soldiers who were performing an anti-smuggling operation in the city of San Antonio in Tachira State on August 16, leaving four people injured.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 Colombians have been expelled in a bid to curb paramilitary activities on the border.

Reports say that about 20,000 have also fled Venezuela out of fear that they might be deported, causing a major diplomatic row between the two neighbors. Maduro accuses native Colombians of smuggling goods that are subsidized at home.

In a tweet on Friday, Maduro expressed his full support for members of Venezuela's military aviation, calling on them to continue the fight against traffickers.

Colombia also accuses Venezuelan aircrafts of making deliberate incursions into the country's airspace.

The developments come as the Venezuelan president and his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos are set to hold talks Monday in Ecuador in an effort to end the border row.

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