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Kenya fake air crash sparks brief panic

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NAIROBI, April 6 (Reuters) Kenyan air authorities briefly sparked panic today by announcing a plane coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo had crashed with 80 people on board -- then saying it was a practice drill.

''It's a drill,'' Kenya Airports Authority (KAA) spokesman Dominic Kabiru told Reuters.

Asked why KAA would briefly pretend, even to foreign media, that there was a real crash, Kabiru added: ''We are testing our preparedness. We have to play a real scenario.'' Earlier, various KAA staff had assured reporters the plane had just crashed and was burning close to the airport. On repeated questioning, they gave flight and engine numbers.

''There's a full emergency. An aircraft has crashed ... Engine No. 4 is on fire, there's smoke everywhere,'' an official at KAA headquarters at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta airport told Reuters minutes before Kabiru's comment.

Emergency services rushed to the scene, witnesses said.

REUTERS SHB VC1420

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