Fiery air crash kills 168 in Iran
A flaming commercial airliner crashed in northwestern Iran on Wednesday, killing all 168 people on board in the deadliest civil-aviation disaster in the Islamic Republic in two decades.
Los Angeles Times
BEIRUT, Lebanon — A flaming commercial airliner crashed in northwestern Iran on Wednesday, killing all 168 people on board in the deadliest civil-aviation disaster in the Islamic Republic in two decades.
Caspian Airways Flight 7908, headed from Tehran, Iran, to Yerevan, Armenia, crashed minutes before noon in the Takestan region of Iran's Qazvin province, state media reported.
Video footage of the crash site broadcast on state television showed a huge crater created by the jet, a Russian-built TU-154 that appeared to have splintered on impact.
"Evidence shows that the plane has broken into pieces," Gen. Massoud Jafari-Nasab told the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
The crash underscored what civil-aviation experts consider the dilapidated state of Iran's fleet of aircraft and an air-transport industry under severe international sanctions that prevent it from purchasing Western-made Boeing or Airbus aircraft.
The U.S. has offered to lift sanctions that forbid the sale of planes with any more than 10 percent of American components as part of a deal involving a curtailing of Iran's nuclear-research program.
Iranian officials repeatedly have dismissed such offers, while charging that the American posture puts the lives of ordinary travelers at risk.
Caspian, a 16-year-old commercial airline, is based in Tehran, the Iranian capital, and operates within Iran and to Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and Armenia with Russian-made Tupolev jets.
Experts described the TU-154 plane as the Russian equivalent of the Boeing 727. The model first entered service with Russia's Aeroflot airlines in 1972.
On July 3, 1988, the U.S. Navy cruiser Vincennes shot down an Iran Air Airbus over the Persian Gulf, killing 290 in Iran's worst civilian air disaster.
Despite worries about the jets' safety record, Iran continues to buy and lease Russian planes. Officials have said they would prefer to buy U.S. and European aircraft.
Black boxes recovered
Flight 7908 crashed 16 minutes after departure, Jafari-Nasab told the semiofficial Fars news agency. Reza Jafarzadeh, spokesman for the state aviation company, told Iranian television that 153 passengers and 15 crew members were aboard and that the flight recorders — the so-called black boxes, which contain voice recordings and vital data about the plane before it crashed — had been recovered.
Witnesses told Fars that the plane was on fire when it hit the ground near the village of Jannatbad.
Among those killed were 10 members of the Iranian national youth judo squad traveling to Yerevan for a summer training camp.
At least six of the passengers were Armenian citizens, and some were citizens of neighboring Georgia, Armenian news agencies reported.
Election fallout: Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi met with the family of a young man shot to death during protests in postelection crackdown and announced Wednesday that he will attend Tehran's main Friday prayer services this week for the first time, a key symbolic act.
The slain man, Sohrab Aarabi, 19, disappeared during a June 15 protest and his family was finally notified on Saturday that he had been shot during the protests. The sermon Friday is due to be delivered by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a powerful cleric and rival of election winner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Hangings: Iranian authorities executed by hanging 13 members of a Sunni Muslim rebel group, which claims to be fighting for the Baluchi ethnic group in Iran and Pakistan, the Iranian state news agency reported. The group, Jundallah, claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Zahedan on May 28 in which 25 people were killed. Two days later, Iran hanged three men accused of being involved.
Seattle Times news services
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 10:01 AM
Rebels tighten hold on Libya oil port
UPDATE - 09:29 AM
Reality leads US to temper its tough talk on Libya
UPDATE - 09:38 AM
2 Ark. injection wells may be closed amid quakes
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.