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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 August 2005, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Spain mourns troops dead in crash
King Juan Carlos of Spain (left) salutes the coffin of a Spanish soldier killed in Afghanistan
King Juan Carlos (saluting, left) led mourners at army headquarters
Spain has held a state funeral for 17 of its soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero led about 1,000 mourners at the ceremony at the army's headquarters in Madrid.

Flags are at half-mast as the country marks two days of national mourning.

Autopsies on the bodies have been completed but it is still unclear why the helicopter crashed four days ago near the western Afghan city of Herat.

Defence Minister Jose Bono said strong winds were the most likely cause, but an attack has not been ruled out.

Crash theories

Emotions ran high at the funeral.


The royal family greeted relatives of the victims individually, and Queen Sofia hugged some of the mourners.

The US, UK, France and Nato sent representatives, and condolences from US President George W Bush were read out on television.

The bodies of the 17 victims arrived in Spain on Thursday and were received at a ceremony led by King Juan Carlos and Mr Zapatero.

The Spanish military's Roman Catholic bishop led Saturday's religious ceremony.

Investigators say strong winds probably caused Tuesday's incident.

Five other Spanish troops were hurt when a second Puma helicopter made an emergency landing near Herat.

Some press reports said the helicopters had come under fire. A Taleban commander said his men shot the helicopter down.

The troops were on a training exercise ahead of parliamentary elections in September.

Spain has about 850 troops deployed in the country.

The crash is the second air disaster for Spanish troops in Afghanistan. Sixty-two peacekeepers died in a plane crash in Turkey in 2003 when returning from Afghanistan.

Watch scenes from the state funeral in Madrid

Afghan crash 'probably' accident
17 Aug 05 |  South Asia

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