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Passenger plane crashes in southern Iran with 66 aboard

Marwan Naamani / AFP (file photo) A French-made ATR-72 owned by Iran's Aseman Airlines sits on the tarmac at Dubai airport.

An Iranian plane crashed into the country’s Zagros mountains on Sunday, an airline spokesman told state media, retracting an earlier statement that all 66 people aboard had died.

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The ATR-72 twin-engine Aseman Airlines plane crashed amid severe weather after taking off on a domestic flight from Tehran.

As rescue teams struggled to find the wreckage on Sunday, Mohammad Tabatabaie, Aseman's public relations chief, retracted the airline's earlier statement reporting that all 66 passengers had died in the crash.

"Given the special circumstances of the region, we still have no access to the spot of the crash and therefore we cannot accurately and definitely confirm the death of all passengers of this plane," he told the ISNA news agency.

The passenger plane disappeared from radar screens 50 minutes after taking off from Tehran’s Mehrabad airport bound for the city of Yasuj in the southwest of the country, Iranian media reported.

The ATR-made plane operated by Aseman Airlines crashed in a mountainous area near the town of Semirom, news agency ISNA quoted emergency services spokesman Mojtaba Khaledi as saying.

Semirom’s governor said rescue helicopters were unable to land in the crash site because of heavy fog and emergency workers were trying to reach the area by land, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.

Mehrabad is located in western Tehran and mainly functions as a domestic airport, although it also serves some international routes.

Iran has suffered several plane crashes in the past few decades. Tehran says US sanctions have long prevented it from buying new aircraft or spare parts from the West.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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