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Adolescent stow-away found dead on U.S. military plane

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has found the body of an adolescent male trapped in a compartment above the landing gear of a C-130 aircraft following a trip to Africa, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.

The Pentagon said the body was found at Ramstein Air Base in Germany during a routine post-flight maintenance inspection on Sunday. The plane traveled from Germany to Senegal, Mali, Chad, Tunisia and Sicily before landing in Ramstein on a trip that lasted just over a week.

"At this point, it is unknown where or when the deceased entered the landing gear wheel well," Kirby said, describing the apparent stow-away as "an adolescent black male, possibly of African origin."

As concerns swell over an outbreak of the deadly Ebola disease in several African countries, the military also confirmed that the body was tested for communicable diseases. Those tests came up negative.

"The cause of death, as well as the other circumstances surrounding this incident, remains under investigation," Kirby said, adding the body had been taken to a German facility for an autopsy.

Kirby acknowledged that airfield security would be examined during the investigation but stressed U.S. military C-130s often land in remote locations around the world.

"The aircraft is a rugged aircraft designed to operate in austere locations. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody that security at some of these fields is not going to be at the same level," Kirby said.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart and Missy Ryan; editing by David Storey and Andrew Hay)

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