6 Filipinos killed in cargo plane crash near Kabul

Posted at 10/13/10 4:10 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan (UPDATE) - A cargo plane operating on behalf of a US-based company crashed into mountains and burst into flames near the Afghan capital on Tuesday, killing all eight crew on board, officials said.

The plane had taken off from Bagram, one of the largest US-run military bases in Afghanistan, 60 kilometres (40 miles) north of Kabul.

Local aviation officials said the plane was carrying goods on behalf of the US-led NATO force in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), but an ISAF spokesman said only that he was checking those reports.

Officials gave no immediate word on the cause of the crash, which happened after dark. Five months ago an Afghan passenger jet crashed into treacherous mountains near Kabul during bad weather.

"A C-130 cargo plane operated by National Air Cargo was on its way from Bagram to Kabul," Mohammad Yaqoob Rasouli, the director of Kabul International Airport, told AFP.

"It disappeared from radar screens at 19:25 (1455 GMT) six miles on the radar screen northeast of Kabul airport," Rasouli told AFP.

"The tower saw a fire in the same location and we also got telephone confirmation from the area of a crash," he said.

"The plane had eight crew members: six Filipinos, one Indian and one Kenyan. Search operations have already begun."

A spokesman for Afghanistan's ministry of transport and civil aviation told AFP that all crew on board perished.

"They are all dead," said the spokesman, Nangyalai Qalatwal.

A police official in the area said a fire was still burning at the crash site nearly two hours after the plane came down.

US-headquartered National Air Cargo told AFP that the crashed aircraft belonged to Trans Afrique, a company based in Ghana.

"We're a customer of theirs and I believe they were on a flight on our behalf," National Air Cargo CEO Preston Murray told AFP by telephone.

NATO said that its troops and Afghan security forces were conducting a search and rescue mission for the plane. A spokesman told AFP that ISAF had scrambled helicopters to the scene which were circling overhead.

"The crash occurred shortly before 8 pm approximately 25 to 30 kilometres (16 to 18 miles) east of Kabul International Airport," ISAF said.

"Early reports indicate the plane is an L-100 Hercules aircraft, the civilian equivalent of a military C-130. The plane was not an ISAF aircraft."

Although commercial aviation incidents are rare in Afghanistan, it was the second civilian aviation crash in five months, in a country where travel by road can be hazardous due to a nine-year Taliban insurgency.

On May 17, a commercial passenger jet operated by private Afghan airline Pamir Airways crashed during bad weather with 44 people on board, slamming into mountains in the Surkh-e-Parsa area of the Shakar Darah mountains near Kabul.

In February 2005, a Boeing 737 operated by private company Kam Air crashed in mountains on the outskirts of Kabul during heavy snow. All 104 people on board, including two dozen foreigners, were killed.