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Afghan jet's flight recorder recovered

/ Source: The Associated Press

NATO and Afghan troops retrieved the flight recorder from a crashed Afghan airliner Sunday, an Afghan official said, 10 days after the plane smashed into a mountain in a snowstorm killing all 104 people on board.

The first clear weather in nearly a week allowed helicopters to ferry troops and investigators to the crash site, 10,000 feet up a snow-covered peak about 20 miles east of the capital, Kabul, officials said.

Maj. Gen. Mohammed Moeen Faqir, an Afghan army commander, said the teams were not yet able to recover bodies. But Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zaher Azimi said the flight recorder had been found.

“It is in the hands of the investigating commission,” Azimi said.

He gave no further details.

The Boeing 737 crashed into the mountaintop east of the capital, Kabul, on Feb. 3 after approaching from the western city of Herat. Authorities have declared all 96 passengers and eight crew dead, including more than 20 foreigners, in the country’s worst air disaster.

Bad weather had previously allowed only a brief inspection of the crash site, which is covered in deep snow, but NATO officials said a team of de-miners was able to spend four hours on Sunday making sure that a makeshift landing pad near an old military lookout on the summit was safe.

Afghan officials said their troops planned to erect a tent to hold remains before they can be flown out by helicopter, though they have warned that the recovery operation could take several weeks.

The Afghan government has said the cause of the crash remains unknown and have called in U.S. experts to help investigate.

The Afghan transport minister has said the plane disappeared from radar screens shortly after it was cleared to land in Kabul, though the private airline, Kam Air, says the pilot had turned away from the capital to seek an easier landing in Pakistan.