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Iran: Plane Crashes, Reportedly Killing All 117 Aboard

Tehran, 12 February 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Iran's Civil Aviation Organization says 117 people on board an Iranian airliner were apparently killed today when their plane crashed in mountains in western Iran. The organization's spokesman, Reza Jafarzadeh, said the Russian-designed Tu-154, operated by Iran Air, left Tehran and crashed just before reaching its destination of Khorramabad.

He said rescue and recovery crews have been sent to the crash site.

President Mohammad Khatami ordered an investigation into the crash.

Low clouds and heavily overcast skies may have hampered landing, residents said.

Reuters quoted a government official, who declined to be identified, saying those killed -- 105 passengers and the rest crew -- included four government officials and at least two foreigners.

"All 117 are dead," the official said.

Khorramabad lies to the east of the Zagros mountain range running along the border with Iraq. State radio said villagers in the area were startled by an explosion early in the morning.

"There is a mountain close to the airport and the plane crashed into it as it was landing," said a local resident who visited the crash site. "The plane was totally destroyed and scattered in small pieces across the mountain."

A Transport Ministry spokesman said four Italians were among the passengers, but a diplomat at the Italian Embassy in Tehran said he could not confirm his countrymen were among those missing and said four names he had been given appeared to be Hispanic.