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Pakistani National Carrier's Plane Crashes Near Capital

Flames rise from the wreckage of a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) ATR 42 turboprop passenger plane after it crashed near Abbottabad on December 7.

A Pakistani passenger plane carrying 47 people on a domestic flight has crashed on a mountainside in the north of the country, leaving little hope that anyone aboard could have survived.

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.

PIA said there were 42 passengers, including at least three foreigners, and five crew members aboard the small twin-turboprop ATR-42 aircraft.

Rescue official Luqman Khan told RFE/RL that 24 bodies had been recovered from the site of the crash.

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."

Prime Minister Nawaz 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

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