An Iranian airliner carrying 117 people crashed into a mountain while trying to land in western Iran on Tuesday, killing all aboard, a government official and local residents said.
The Russian-built Tupolev-154, belonging to Iran Air Tours, an affiliate of the state carrier Iran Air, was flying from the capital Tehran to Khorramabad when it disappeared off radar screens southwest of the city.
Low clouds and heavily overcast skies may have hampered landing, residents said.
The official, who declined to be identified, said those killed --105 passengers and the rest crew -- included four government officials and at least two foreigners.
"All 117 are dead," the official told Reuters.
Khorramabad lies to the east of the Zagros mountain range running along the border with Iraq. State radio said villagers in the area were startled by an explosion early in the morning.
"There is a mountain close to the airport and the plane crashed into it as it was landing," said a local resident who visited the crash site.
"The plane was totally destroyed and scattered in small pieces across the mountain," the resident said.
A Transport Ministry spokesman said four Italians were among the passengers, but a diplomat at the Italian embassy in Tehran said he could not confirm his countrymen were among those missing and said four names he had been given appeared to be Hispanic.
The government official could only confirm two foreigners were among the dead.
Iranian airlines have been dogged by a history of accidents in recent years.
Subject to US sanctions, the country has had difficulty obtaining spare parts for its ageing fleet of aircraft, many of them Boeings acquired before the 1979 Islamic revolution, and has instead leased planes from the former Soviet Union.
Last May, a Russian-built Yakovlev Yak-40 plane carrying 30 people including the transport minister and seven parliamentarians crashed near the northern town of Sari killing all on board.
Following that crash, Iranian legislators called for tighter aircraft safety controls.
US sanctions bar the sale of Boeing airliners to the Islamic Republic and hinder the acquisition of other aircraft, many of which rely on US-built engines or other components.
(China Daily February 12, 2002)