updated 8/4/2006 5:06:18 AM ET 2006-08-04T09:06:18

A small passenger plane crashed into a mountain and then tumbled into a valley in eastern Congo, killing all 17 passengers and crew, officials said Friday.

The Antonov An-28 was carrying 14 passengers and three Ukrainian crew members when it went down Thursday afternoon as it approached the airport at Bukavu, in hilly eastern Congo, said Georges Matutu, a Bukavu civil aviation official reached by telephone.

Matutu said the cause of the accident wasn’t known, but high winds were reported in the area.

“The plane tried to correct its position relative to the airport, but it hit a mountain, caught fire and went down,” he said.

Matutu said rescue crews found 12 bodies, including one child, in the burned wreckage in a valley about 30 miles north of Bukavu.

A spokesman for the 17,600-member U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, Jean-Tobie Okala, said there were no survivors. No U.N. staff were among the victims, he said.

The plane was owned by a Congolese company, Trasept Congo, Matutu said.

Air passengers often rely on old and poorly maintained aircraft to travel around Congo, a war-wrecked nation the size of Western Europe with only about 600 miles of paved roads.

The European Union has banned almost all of Congo’s dozens of airlines from flying to European airspace. Planes, which also often transport goods in the hold, may have little more than plastic chairs for passengers to sit on.

On July 8, an Antonov cargo plane crashed in the mountains of eastern Congo, killing three Russian pilots and two Congolese passengers.

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