Wed, May 28, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Peacekeepers from Spain killed in crash on Turkish mountain

AP , TRABZON, TURKEY

Turkish and Spanish experts struggled yesterday to identify the charred remains of 62 Spanish peacekeepers and 13 crew members killed when their plane crashed into a remote Turkish mountain slope.

Turkish troops had retrieved all of the bodies from the crash site late Monday, some 760km northeast of Ankara, as investigators began trying to identify the charred and torn bodies.

The Spanish peacekeepers were returning home from Afghanistan, where they had just finished a four-month tour of duty with the international security force there.

The Russian-made YAK-42D was making a refueling stop in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon, on its way from Kabul, Afghanistan, to Zaragoza, Spain, when it crashed.

The plane went in to land, but was flying too high, and turned toward nearby fog-shrouded mountains. The plane crashed in on the mountain slope and exploded in flames.

"The Turkish military has recovered all the bodies," said Spain's Defense Minister Federico Trillo who flew to Trabzon to coordinate repatriating the bodies.

"Our team will begin the identification of the bodies and after that we'll plan the next steps," Trillo said.

Trillo, who was expected to visit the crash site yesterday, was accompanied by a Spanish medical team working to identify the remains kept a makeshift morgue.

The airplane, which belonged to Ukrainian-Mediterranean Airlines, carried 62 Spanish peacekeepers, 12 Ukrainian crew members and a Belarussian flight manager. All were killed.

The cause of the pre-dawn accident was not clear but Trillo said that bad weather -- fog and strong wind -- appeared to be to blame. Radio contact with the plane was cut off just before the crash, and Turkish aviation officials speculated there may have been a technical malfunction.

The peacekeepers killed in the crash were the first deaths among Spanish troops in the 17 months they have been involved in the Afghan peacekeeping mission.

Spain contributes 141 soldiers to the 5,000-member International Security Assistance Force in Kabul -- mostly engineers working in construction and explosive ordnance disposal.

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