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Wednesday, January 14, 1998 Published at 12:30 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

52 dead in Taleban plane crash

Rescuers have failed to find any survivors from an Afghan passenger plane which came down in mountains on the Pakistani border on Tuesday.

Fifty-two people died in the crash. Most were civilians although some ordinary-ranking soldiers were said to be on board.

A local commander of the Frontier Corps paramilitary force told a local news agency the charred remains of the victims were being taken from the wreckage and will be sent to their families for burial.

The Russian-built Antonov 24 was flying to Herat - a staging post for battles in the north-east of Afghanistan - from Taleban headquarters in Kandahar, when it got lost in fog while looking for an emergency landing strip.

"Plane ran out of fuel"

The plane reportedly strayed into Pakistani airspace, and the pilot radioed an emergency message to Quetta airport before contact was lost.

A Pakistani frontier official said the plane crashed into the Khojak mountains when it ran out of fuel.

The airline's director, Captain Abdul Zahir Atayee, said the Antonov was the last of Ariana's planes used for purely domestic flights.

The airline, owned and operated by the Taleban, also has four Boeing 727 planes though, which are used on flights from Afghanistan to Dubai and Sharjah in the Gulf and also to Amritsar in India and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

The Taleban, which controls about 80% of Afghanistan, are fighting for supremacy in remaining areas of the country against an alliance of groups drawn largely from ethnic minorities.


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