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Wednesday, November 17, 1999 Published at 17:50 GMT


World: Europe

Kosovo plane crash leaves 24 dead



Nato has confirmed that all 24 people on board an aid flight died when it crashed in northern Kosovo on Friday.

The plane, chartered by the United Nations World Food Programme, came down 15km northeast of the town of Mitrovica.

Kosovo: Special Report
A spokesman for the Nato-led peacekeeping force K-For said it was too early to speculate about the cause of the crash.

He said it was extremely unlikely that the aircraft had been shot down by the Yugoslav military, despite the fact it had strayed into Serbian airspace.

Recovery mission


The BBC's Jon Leyne: "All 24 bodies have been recovered"
The wreckage was found on a steep mountainside close to the Serbian border. The K-For spokesman said Nato troops had recovered the first bodies, and that the plane's black box flight recorder had been taken intact from the wreckage.

The plane was located late on Friday after a search involving helicopters fitted with searchlights and infra-red equipment. The hunt had been hampered by the fear of mines and the difficult terrain.

Only the back part of the plane was still intact, the French news agency AFP said, quoting a French helicopter pilot who said he had seen several bodies near the wreckage.

Radars

The plane disappeared from radar screens at 1213 local time (1113 GMT).

The WFP said that the ATR-42 plane had left Rome at 0900 (0800 GMT) on a daily shuttle flight to Pristina.

The aircraft was reported to be carrying staff from the WFP, the UN Mission in Kosovo, various non-governmental organisations and a Canadian official.

The WFP, which has its headquarters in Rome, is responsible for supplying food aid to around 900,000 people in Kosovo over the coming winter.

Manufacturer investigates

The plane's manufacturer ATR said it had a team of experts ready to go to the scene of the accident. It said the plane had first been delivered in April 1986.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed his shock and sadness at the plane crash.

"Once again men and women of many nationalities have had their lives cut short in the service of the United Nations, on a mission to bring relief to the suffering and peace to a war-torn community," he said.



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