Kabul: An Afghan passenger plane crashed into the mountains of northern Afghanistan on Monday with 43 people on board, including foreigners, the interior ministry told AFP.
The Pamir Airways plane was en route from the northern province of Kunduz to Kabul when it came down over the Hindu Kush mountains. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear.
The government said the aircraft lost radio contact about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Kabul. It was carrying 38 passengers and five crew, interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP.
“I can confirm that a Pamir Airways plane has crashed over the Salang mountains with 38 passengers and five crew members on board,” Bashary said.
“There were some foreigners among the passengers but at this stage we don’t know how many and what nationalities,” he added.
The Afghan government has dispatched a team to the rugged mountains to find the wreckage and search for survivors, the spokesman said, appealing to the US-led NATO force fighting the Taliban to assist in the rescue effort.
“We ask our ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) colleagues to help us locate the site of the crash using their unmanned planes,” he said.
According to its website, Pamir Airways was founded in May 1995 and is the oldest private airline in Afghanistan.
It says it operates flights with two newly purchased Boeing 737s, which are the most recently registered aircraft in Afghanistan.
Pamir Airways flies between Kabul and Kunduz six days a week. As well as domestic routes that criss-cross the mountainous country, the company flies to Dubai, New Delhi, Jeddah and Riyadh, according to its website.
Commercial aviation incidents are rare in Afghanistan, where travel by road can be hazardous due to the nearly nine-year Taliban insurgency.
In February 2005, a Boeing 737 operated by private company Kam Air crashed in the mountains on the outskirts of Kabul during heavy snow. There were 104 people on board, including two dozen foreigners, and no survivors.
On 9 May, a man was arrested after trying to break open the windows and emergency door of an Ariana Afghan Airlines plane in an apparent attempt to bring down the aircraft, an official at the state-run airline said.
The incident happened soon after the plane took off from Kabul, bound for the Iranian city of Mashhad, in what the airline official said appeared to be an attempted “terrorist attack.”
The increasingly deadly Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan has seen the United States and NATO allies decide to boost their military deployment in the country to a scheduled 150,000 by August.