Sunday, January 13, 2008

Macedonia military helicopter crashes; no survivors

BLACE, Macedonia (Reuters) - A Macedonian military helicopter transporting soldiers home from Bosnia crashed near a village south of Skopje on Saturday, killing up to 11 passengers and crew, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said.

He said the cause of the crash in the Katlanovo region was not known, but described it as an accident.

"According to preliminary reports, 11 people were on their way from Bosnia," he told reporters at the crash site. "So far, seven bodies have been identified."

Rescue officials said there were no survivors.

A Reuters photographer said the helicopter was completely destroyed, scattering debris up to 100 metres from the site.

The helicopter, which Macedonian media reports said was an Mi-17 transport helicopter, was returning Macedonian soldiers from European Union-led peackeeping operations in Bosnia.

Macedonia's military helicopter fleet is mostly made up of Russian-made Mi-24 attack helicopters and Mi-17s, bought in 2001 during an ethnic Albanian guerrilla insurgency.

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