Embassy: 3 British nationals were on plane that crashed in Afghanistan

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

3 British citizens on Afghan plane that crashed

KABUL, Afghanistan — The British Embassy in Kabul has confirmed that three British nationals were aboard a passenger plane that crashed in northern Afghanistan on Monday with 44 people on board.

Embassy spokeswoman Melanie Scarlett said that she could not say who the British nationals worked for nor give further details about them.

In all, six foreigners were on board the Pamir Airways flight that went down Monday about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Kabul on a flight from the northern city of Kunduz to the capital.

There was no immediate word on casualties. Poor weather was hampering efforts to locate the plane.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

KABUL Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan passenger plane carrying 44 people, including six foreigners, crashed Monday in a mountainous northern region where poor weather was hampering efforts to locate it, officials said. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Rescuers were trying to reach the crash site near the 12,700-foot (3,800-meter) -high Salang Pass, a major route through the Hindu Kush mountains that connects the capital to the north.

The plane was operated by Pamir Airways, a private Afghan airline making a flight from the northern city of Kunduz to the capital, said Kabul International Airport Police Chief Mohammad Asif Jabar Khil. The plane crashed about 60 miles (100 kilometers) from Kabul, he said.

At the request of the Afghan government, NATO dispatched a fixed-wing aircraft to the last known position of the plane, but poor weather hampered the aerial search.

Capt. Robert Leese, a spokesman for the NATO air unit assisting in the search, said the U.S. aircraft got within four miles (seven kilometers) of the crash site, but had to abort due to bad weather.

“All eyes were searching for the plane but the fog was so bad you couldn’t tell where the mountain began and the fog ended,” Leese said.

Other NATO helicopters were on standby at Bagram Air Field and the Kabul airport to assist in any rescue effort, NATO said in a statement. The Afghan Defense Ministry also ordered the nation’s air force to be on standby to assist in any rescue effort.

“The weather is very bad,” said Gen. Rajab, commander of the Salang Pass for the Afghan Ministry of Public Works, who goes by only one name. “It is snowing. There is flooding.”

Jaweed Stanikzai, the brother of a passenger aboard the plane, told The Associated Press at the Kabul airport that he last talked with his brother at 8 a.m. (0330 GMT).

“My brother was coming from Kunduz,” he said. “He told us that he was on the plane and could not talk, but would call us as soon as he could. He has been missing since 8 a.m. Nobody is providing us any information about the incident.”

Raz Mohammad Alami, deputy transportation minister who was attempting to travel to the crash site with the minister of aviation and other officials, said the plane was carrying 44 people, including six foreigners and six crew members.

Police chief Abdul Razaq Yabyaqoubi of northern Kunduz province said the plane left there at 8:30 a.m. Monday, but never arrived in the capital.

Mohammad Azim, chief of police in the Jabalussaraj district of Parwan province, said the crash occurred between his district and Shotul, a district in Panjshir province.

Kabul-based Pamir Airways started operations in 1995. It has daily flights to major Afghan cities and also operates flights to Dubai and to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage.

According to its website, the airline uses Antonov An-24 type aircraft on all its Kunduz-to-Kabul flights.

The Antonov An-24 is a 60-year-old, medium range twin-turboprop civil aircraft built in the former Soviet Union from 1950 to 1978. Although production there ceased more than three decades ago, a modernized version is still being made in China.

The aircraft is widely used by airlines in the developing world due to its rugged design, ease of maintenance and low operating costs. It is designed to operate from remote, unprepared airstrips with austere navigational aids.

A total 143 have so far been lost in all sorts of mishaps, according to the Aviation Safety Network’s statistics.


Associated Press writer Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

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