Kazakhstan’s acting border service chief, Col. Turganbek Stambekov, was among 27 people killed in a military plane crash on Tuesday near the southern city of Shymkent. An investigation was opened.

The Russian-made An-72 crashed at 1255 GMT (7-55 a.m. EST) about 20 km (12 miles) away from 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, the statement said.

Without specifying further details, authorities said an investigation was opened into the 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.

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.

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