168 reportedly killed in Iran plane crash

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - An Iranian passenger plane crashed Wednesday
in northwest Iran, killing all 168 people on board, state media reported.

Footage from the scene on state-run Press TV showed a deep
trench smashed into an agricultural field by the impact, littered
with smoking wreckage. It showed a large chunk of a wing, but much
of the wreckage appeared to be in small pieces.

The Russian-made Caspian Airlines jet was heading from Tehran to
the Armenian capital Yerevan when it crashed near the village of
Jannatabad outside the city of Qazvin, around 75 miles northwest of
Tehran, state television said.

The Qazvin emergency services director Hossein Bahzadpour told
the IRNA news agency that the plane was completely destroyed and
shattered to pieces, and the wreckage was in flames. "It his
highly likely that all the passengers on the flight were killed,"
Bahzadpour said.

He did not give a number, but Iranian Civil Aviation Organization spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh told state television that 153 passengers and 15 crewmembers were on board. State TV said all were killed.

A Caspian Airlines representative told AP in Yerevan that most
of the passengers were Armenians, and that some Georgian citizen
and other nationalities were on board. The representative spoke on
condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to talk to
the press.

Caspian Airlines is a Russian-Iranian joint venture founded in
1993. Iran has frequent plane crashes often because of bad
maintenance of its aging aircraft. Tehran blames the problem in
part on U.S. sanctions that prevent Iran from getting spare parts
for some planes. Caspian Airlines, however, uses Russian-made
Tupolevs whose maintenance would be less impaired by American

In February 2006, a Russian-made TU-154 operated by Iran
Airtour, which is affiliated with Iran's national carrier, crashed
during landing in Tehran, killing 29 of the 148 people on board.
Another Airtour Tupolev crashed in 2002 in the mountains of western
Iran, killing all 199 on board.

The crashes have also affected Iran's military. In December
2005, 115 people were killed when a U.S.-made C-130 plane, crashed
into a 10-story building near Tehran's Mehrabad airport. In Nov.
2007, a Russian-made Iranian military plane crashed shortly after
takeoff killing 36 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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