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Pakistani Passenger Plane Crashes, Killing All Aboard

Pakistani soldiers search for victims from the wreckage of the crashed PIA passenger plane Flight PK661 at the site in the village of Saddha Batolni in the Abbottabad district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on December 7.

A Pakistani passenger plane carrying 48 people on a domestic flight has crashed on a mountainside in the north of the country, killing all aboard.

Officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province said the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) plane crashed on December 7 near the town of Havelian, some 70 kilometers north of Islamabad, during a flight to the capital from the northern city of Chitral.

"We confirm there are no survivors in PIA's ATR crash," the Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.

Officials said the charred bodies of the 42 passengers, including at least three foreigners, and six crew members aboard the twin-turboprop ATR-42 aircraft were taken to hospital for DNA testing to help identify them.

Around 500 Pakistani soldiers had arrived at the scene of the crash as well as doctors and paramedics.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif expressed his "deep grief and sorrow" over the crash.

In a statement, he said that "the entire nation is deeply saddened over today's unfortunate crash and shares the grief of the families who lost their dear ones."

Images shown on Pakistani television channels showed a trail of wreckage engulfed in flames on a mountain slope.

A Pakistan International Airlines ATR-42 turboprop passenger plane (file photo)
A Pakistan International Airlines ATR-42 turboprop passenger plane (file photo)

Sarwar Khan, an eyewitness, told RFE/RL that dead bodies and debris were scattered in the area.

The Reuters news agency quoted one local official as saying it was unlikely anyone survived.

"All of the bodies are burned beyond recognition," Taj Muhammad Khan told Reuters.

Khan also said witnesses told him that the aircraft appeared to have been on fire before it hit the ground.

Flight PK-661 lost contact with air-traffic controllers during the flight from Chitral to the capital, PIA said.

A passenger list seen by RFE/RL showed that Junaid Jamshed, a Pakistani pop star turned Muslim preacher, was among the passengers. PIA confirmed that Jamshed and his wife were on board.

A statement from the airline said that there were nine women and two infants on the plane.

Sardar Bahadur Khan, a man who said he missed the flight, told RFE/RL that he believed there were foreigners among the passengers.

"I am in Chitral, I did not board the plane," he said. "My friends were on board.... They all died -- poor souls."

Earlier, Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan directed federal departments to immediately initiate rescue efforts and help the provincial government.

PIA's last major crash was in July 2006, when a plane bound for Lahore crashed shortly after takeoff from the central city of Multan, killing more than 40 people.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, Dawn, and AFP