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Last Updated:  Thursday, 20 February, 2003, 10:36 GMT
Pakistan air force chief killed
Mushaf Ali Mir
Mir: On his way to inspect air base
Pakistan's air force chief, Mushaf Ali Mir, has been killed in a plane crash in a remote north-western region of the country.

The Fokker-27 aircraft, carrying 17 people, is said to have come down in bad weather in the northern Kohat district, about 250 kilometres (150 miles) north-west of the capital, Islamabad.

"There were no survivors," a military spokesman said.

Mir's wife and a number of other senior officers were also on board.

A military spokesman said the plane's wreckage has been found and most of the bodies have been airlifted by helicopters to a nearby air base.

The cause of the crash is not yet known, but according to senior officials it appears to have been an accident.

Contact lost

Mir was on his way to inspect an air base when the plane went down.

Military sources said radio contact was lost as soon as the aircraft entered the mountainous region.

Rain and strong winds over the past four days have badly disrupted air travel in the country's northern region and officials say there is a strong possibility that Mir's plane may have crashed due to the conditions.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf expressed profound grief and sorrow over the air chief's death.

The deputy chief of the Pakistan Air Force, Syed Qaiser Hussain, has been appointed acting air force chief, a spokesman said.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says as news of the crash was received in the capital, an emergency was declared at all the air force bases in the area.

Accidents involving Pakistan air force planes during training flights are not uncommon, but this is the first time in the country's history that such a high-ranking military official has been killed in an air crash.

The only other comparable incident is the air crash involving a former military ruler, General Zia ul-Haq, in 1988, but that was widely believed to be an act of sabotage.



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The BBC's Zaffra Abbas
"Weather conditions were not bad"



SEE ALSO:
Villagers witness crash destruction
20 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Country Profile: Pakistan
29 Jan 03 |  Country profiles


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