Iraqi pilot flew military plane that crashed in Arizona

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Plane Crashes in Arizona

DOUGLAS, Ariz. (AP) — An Iraqi pilot who has been training in the United States for four years crashed in southern Arizona while flying an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft, a spokesman for the Iraqi defense minister said Thursday.

"We have no word yet on his fate or the reason behind the crash," Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim told The Associated Press. "We are in contact with the Americans to get more details."

Ibrahim confirmed the pilot is Brig. Gen. Rafid Mohammed Hassan but said the pilot's fate still is not known. He said the rescue operation is difficult because the plane hit a gas pipeline in a rural area.

Hassan was the only person aboard when the plane went down during a Wednesday night training mission with the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing, the Guard said in a statement. It did not release further information about the pilot.

See photos from the crash below:

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Iraqi pilot flew military plane that crashed in Arizona
Smoke rises Thursday, June 25, 2015, from the site where an F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed Wednesday evening near Douglas, Ariz. The pilot's identity and condition is unknown at this time. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP) 
Smoke rises Thursday, June 25, 2015, from the site where an F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed Wednesday evening near Douglas, Ariz. The pilot's identity and condition is unknown at this time. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
A Cochise County Sheriff vehicle blocks the road on Thursday, June 25, 2015, miles away from the site where an F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed Wednesday evening near Douglas, Ariz. The pilot's identity and condition is unknown at this time. (Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
F-16 Airplane crash outside of Douglas! Big explosions and fire http://t.co/CJ3gyYTTMl
A single F-16 aircraft from @162ndFW went down at approx 8pm today 5 miles E of Douglas of municipal airport. Pilot unknown at this time.
#BREAKING: FAA confirms military plane crash near Douglas, Arizona. #TucsonNewsNow crews heading to the scene. http://t.co/8bEBjWCBJm
FILE - In this May 15, 2015, file photo, a boneyard crew tows an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft prior to the preservation process after its arrival at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz. Military officials confirm a single F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft crashed Wednesday night, June 24, 2015, about 5 miles east of Douglas Municipal Airport. The pilot with the 162nd Wing Arizona Air National Guard was the only person on board during the night training mission, according to an Arizona Air National Guard statement. The pilot's identity and condition is unknown at this time. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
INDIAN SPRINGS, NV - SEPTEMBER 14: An F-16C Fighting Falcon flies by during a U.S. Air Force firepower demonstration at the Nevada Test and Training Range September 14, 2007 near Indian Springs, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Rescuers were sent to the crash site 5 miles east of Douglas Municipal Airport, which is about 120 miles southeast of Tucson.

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels said a fire started by the accident was extinguished early Thursday morning. Dannels said it was still too dangerous to begin a search-and-rescue mission. He said no civilians were injured as a result of the crash.

The 162nd Wing conducts international F-16 pilot training from Tucson International Airport as well as reconnaissance missions from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, according to its website.

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., said Thursday that her thoughts are with the pilot, his family and emergency responders.

"Instances like this remind us that those who wear the uniform put their lives on the line every day and deserve our constant gratitude," she said in a statement.

McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, was the first female U.S. fighter pilot to fly in combat.

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Associated Press writer Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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