A Hercules plane from the Lyneham air base was destroyed by British forces to stop Iraqi insurgents finding specialist equipment inside, the Ministry of Defence has revealed.

Two passengers were injured when the C-130 aircraft crash landed in Iraq; the equipment could not be recovered from the wreckagewithout risking.

The plane had been on a routine mission in the Maysan Province in south-eastern Iraq, close to the Iranian border.

An MOD spokesman said: "The aircraft was significantly damaged during the landing. The site was secured and, after a thorough assessment of the damage, it was concluded that the aircraft could not be recovered without exposing our personnel to undue risk. There was also a potential risk that anti-Iraqi forces might obtain information on specialist equipment. The aircraft was therefore safely destroyed."

It is not believed the aircraft had been shot down or attacked on landing.

It had been making a "routine landing on a tactical landing zone", and the pilots were not to blame.

It is the third time a Hercules from RAF Lyneham in north Wiltshire has been lost in either Iraq or Afghanistan.