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Karachi crash pilot's engine alert

The pilot of a small chartered plane which crashed shortly after taking off from an airport in Karachi, killing all 21 on board, warned of engine trouble moments before the tragedy, officials said.

Pervez George, a spokesman for the country's Civil Aviation Authority, revealed the pilot told the control tower that there appeared to be some fault with the engine, and was ordered to return to the airport, but as he was turning the plane, it crashed in an open field.

The aircraft caught on fire shortly afterwards, while television footage from the scene showed it had broken into pieces, with the tail separated from the rest of the charred wreck.

Aviation officials said the flight was headed to an oil field in the Bhitshah area in southern Sindh province.

Nadeem Hanif, spokesman for Karachi-based JS Air, said the plane had been checked before taking off. "It was a fit aircraft, which was cleared to fly," he said. "Absolutely, there should not be any ambiguity in anybody's mind that it was fit to carry out operations."

The Beech aircraft had been chartered by Pakistan's branch of ENI, an Italian-based oil and gas company, said Roger Amir, an official with the organisation in Karachi.

Company officials revealed there were at least 15 ENI employees on the flight, while the Foreign Ministry in Rome indicated that at least one of the dead was an Italian citizen.

"The bodies onboard are beyond recognition," said Army Lt Col Noor Alam, a lead rescue official.

The plane crash was the second in less than four months in Pakistan, which has suffered several tragedies this year, including massive floods which have left millions homeless and ongoing Islamist militant attacks. The previous crash, in July, killed 152 people and was the worst-ever on Pakistani soil.

Karachi is one of Pakistan's largest cities and has a population of more than 16 million, while its airport hosts flights from all over the world.

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