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Last Updated: Monday, 26 May, 2003, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
Turkey air crash kills Spanish troops
A Turkish firefighter at the site of the Ukraine airliner crash near Trabzon in north-west Turkey
The airliner was said to be in good working order
Sixty-two Spanish peacekeepers returning home from Afghanistan have been killed after the airliner they were travelling in crashed in Turkey.

The Ukrainian Yak-42 hit a mountain near the Black Sea resort of Trabzon in north-west Turkey after the pilot tried to land in fog in order to refuel.

Television pictures from the scene show smoking wreckage scattered across the misty hillside.

Trabzon Governor Aslan Yildirim told CNN-Turk television that Turkish soldiers had retrieved more than 25 bodies from the wreckage.

Spain's Defence Minister Federico Trillo will travel to Turkey on Monday to organise the repatriation of the soldiers. He is travelling with army investigators and doctors.

Spain's defence ministry said the peacekeepers were returning from a four-month mission in Afghanistan.

The plane had been due to make a refuelling stop in Trabzon, but hit a mountain slope 50 kilometres (30 miles) south of the town early on Monday, according to local media reports.

The plane was flying from the Kyrgyz city of Bishkek to Zaragoza in Spain.

A Yak-42, similar to the Ukrainian airliner that crashed in Trabzon, Turkey

There were 40 members of the army, 21 members of the air force, one civil guard and 12 crew members on board.

Local officials quoted by the Associated Press said that the plane crashed during its third attempt to land in thick fog.

The pilot had said that he was unable to see the runway - visibility was less than 10 metres - the plane then disappeared from radar screens.

The Spanish defence ministry hired the airliner reportedly from a Ukrainian company Mediterranean Airways which runs charter flights for Egypt, Greece, Italy, Lebanon, Spain and Turkey.

A spokesman for the air company told Interfax-Ukraine news agency that the aircraft was technically sound.

When the airliner refuelled at Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport and left some of its cargo there, it was also reported to be in good working order.

Quick response

Turkish military troops and ambulances immediately rushed to the scene of the crash, near the town of Macka, to rescue possible survivors, the Anatolia news agency said.

One witness said the wreckage of the plane was in flames and reported seeing at least two charred bodies, private Kanal 7 television reported.

"There were flames everywhere. I couldn't get close to it for 15 to 20 minutes," Sait Topcu, a cleric at a mosque in a nearby village, was quoted as saying.

First developed by Yakovlev Design Bureau, Russia
Entered service: 1980
Wingspan: 34.88m
Aircraft length: 36.38m
Cruising speed: 800+ km/h
Passengers: Up to 120

Spain has contributed 120 peacekeepers to the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), which is responsible for helping to maintain security in the Afghan capital.

The crash is the third of a Ukrainian-operated jet in the past six months.

On 9 May, around 160 people died when the cargo bay door on an Ilyushin-76 transport aircraft run by Ukraine's defence ministry and piloted by a Ukrainian crew flew open over the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In December, 44 people, mainly Ukrainians, died when a Ukrainian-made Antonov An-140 crashed in Iran.

The BBC's Jonny Dymond reports from Istanbul
"Heavy fog meant two attempts at landing were abandoned; the third ended in disaster"

In pictures: Turkey plane crash
26 May 03  |  Photo Gallery
Scot killed in Turkey air crash
09 Jan 03  |  Scotland
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Air disaster timeline
09 May 03  |  In Depth

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