NATO helicopters find wreckage of Afghan airliner


NATO helicopters found the wreckage of an Afghan airliner yesterday that crashed into a mountain top during a snow storm near Kabul two days ago with 104 people on board.

Authorities said they were still searching for any survivors, after saying earlier all 96 passengers and eight crew had been killed, and were investigating the cause of the crash of the Boeing 737.

The airliner had been flying to Kabul from the western city of Herat, a busy route for Afghan businessmen and foreign aid workers. It disappeared off radar screens three minutes after turning away from the capital's airport due to poor visibility.

Nine Turks, four Americans, an Italian naval captain, two other Italians and an Iranian were reported to have been among those on board. Six of the crew were foreigners, four of them Russian, the Russian Interfax news agency said.

The NATO-led peacekeeping force in Afghanistan said Dutch crew in Apache helicopters spotted the plane's tail and other debris strewn across a jagged mountain peak above the village of Band-e Ghazi, 20 miles southeast of Kabul.

Specialist NATO mountain rescue teams were deployed but had to withdraw because of bad weather, said Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Poulain, spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Kabul's airport is on a high plain surrounded by mountains that force pilots to do a sharp turn immediately before landing even in good conditions. It lacks electronic devices to help pilots land in bad weather.

The plane was operated by private Afghan airline Kam Air and leased from a company in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan. Kam Air opened as Afghanistan's only private airline in November 2003. It flies leased aircraft between Kabul, Dubai and Istanbul and operates several domestic routes.