The acting head of Kazakhstan's border guard and 26 other people died Tuesday when a military transport plane crashed, the Kazakh National Security Committee said.

The An-72 aircraft carried a crew of seven and 20 military personnel, including Col. Turganbek Stambekov, the committee said in a statement cited by Russian news agencies.

The Russian-made plane took off from the Kazakh capital, Astana, bound for Shymkent, an industrial hub near Kazakhstan's 2,200-kilometer (1,350-mile)-long border with Uzbekistan.

Stambekov took command of the border guard in June, just weeks after 14 members of the service were slaughtered at an outpost near China.

Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic, is the largest nation in Central Asia. EFE