Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
By Bashir Sediqy
Afghanistan - Nato troops found human remains on Monday on a frozen mountain top near Kabul where an Afghan airliner crashed last week and there was no sign any of the 104 people on board survived, a spokesperson said.
The Boeing 737 operated by private Afghan airline Kam Air crashed on the snow-covered 3 300-metre Shapiri Ghar mountain, about 30km south-east of Kabul on Thursday.
Afghanistan's Nato-led peacekeeping force said a Slovenian mountain rescue team was dropped by helicopter at the crash site on Monday morning.
"We had a team there; they found some human remains," said Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Poulain, a spokesperson for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force. Asked if the team found any sign of life, he said: "In the area the team was in, no."
Poulain said that despite the freezing conditions on the mountain, ISAF would not rule out the possibility of survivors until the whole area had been thoroughly searched.
He said the fuselage and wings had yet to be found and it was possible the rest of the aircraft was on the other side of the mountain.
Most of the passengers were Afghans, but also on board were nine Turks, four Americans, an Italian navy officer, two other Italians, an Iranian and the eight crew, four of them Russians.
If their deaths are confirmed, it would be the worst crash in Afghan aviation history.
The Slovenian troops were the first to reach the crash site as poor weather, including freezing fog and deep snow, has hampered search efforts. The Afghan defence ministry said Afghan troops had now reached the site to continue the search.
First television pictures of the crash site, taken by Reuters Television from an Afghan military helicopter, showed the white tail fin of the aircraft sticking upright out of the snow with other pieces of wreckage scattered around.
The plane had been flying to Kabul on Thursday from the western city of Herat, a busy route for Afghan businessmen and foreign aid workers returning to the capital for the weekend. It disappeared off radar screens while approaching Kabul airport.
Officials of the airline said at the time of the crash that the aircraft was turned away from Kabul International Airport due to heavy snow.
But US Marines pilot Major Clay Baradi told the news briefing the aircraft would have been cleared to approach Kabul by US military air traffic controllers but would not have reached the point where it was in contact with the Kabul control tower.
Asked if there were indications of pilot error, he said that until it crashed, the aircraft was on a normal approach with normal communications with air traffic controllers.
"Up until the point that the aircraft was off ground track or too low - because it impacted this terrain - there was nothing out of the ordinary," he said.
The airport is on a high plain surrounded by mountains, forcing pilots to do a sharp turn immediately before landing even in good conditions. It also lacks sophisticated electronic equipment to guide pilots trying to land in bad weather.
Kam Air opened as Afghanistan's only private airline in November 2003. It flies leased aircraft between Kabul, Dubai and Istanbul and several domestic routes.
Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Kabul