KABUL: Rescuers located the wreckage of a passenger plane that crashed in the Afghan mountains with 43 people on board but there was no immediate word on whether anyone had survived, officials said Thursday.
Afghan and NATO rescuers located the tail of the Pamir Airways plane, which had been carrying three Britons, an American and dozens of Afghans, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kabul, a transport ministry spokesman said.
The authorities had originally believed that the ageing Antonov 24 turboprop plane came down Monday over treacherous terrain about 120 kilometers north of the capital.
"The international force brought us photographs of the tail of the plane. It was found in the Shakar Dara mountains," transport ministry spokesman Nangyalai Qalatwal said.
"We have found the tail with the logo of Pamir on it. It was found on the side of the mountain," he said.
The defense ministry issued a statement offering condolences to the relatives of people who had "suffered" in the crash.
But ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said it was too early to assume that all on board had perished.
"We are not saying yet that all people on board have died because we have not seen their bodies," he told AFP. "We are expressing condolences to the families who have suffered from this incident."
The passenger plane was en route from the northern province of Kunduz to Kabul when it came down after losing radio contact during bad weather, although the cause of the crash is still unclear.
Qalatwal said a delegation of officials and rescuers was en route to the site where the tail had been located.
Snow and fog have hampered attempts to locate the wreckage of the plane and search for any survivors, both from the air and on the ground.
According to its website, Pamir Airways was founded in May 1995. One of the airlines owners, Khalilullah Ziayee, told Afghan television families of victims of the disaster would each receive $100,000 in compensation.
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.
All 104 people on board, including two dozen foreigners, were killed.
The Pamir Airways Antonov lost radio contact 37 minutes after taking off for Kabul — normally around an hour’s flight — on Monday morning.
Rescuers originally believed the plane had come down on the northern side of Salang, in Khinjan Baghlan province, where grief-stricken relatives of passengers have been gathering, waiting for news.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, deployed in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, dispatched a plane and two helicopters to the area.
According to the passenger manifest seen by AFP, six of those on board were foreigners and the rest Afghans.
The British embassy said three Britons were on the plane and the US State Department said there was one American.