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Body of Afghan Stewardess Recovered

February 14, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ Afghan and NATO troops retrieved the first body from a crashed Afghan airliner Monday, a commander said, 11 days after the plane hit a mountain in a snowstorm, killing all 104 people aboard.

The body of one crew member was found at the crash site, 10,000 feet up a snow-covered peak about 20 miles east of Kabul, and brought to the capital by helicopter, Maj. Gen. Mohammed Moeen Faqir said.

Another army officer, Maj. Mohammed Bashir, said the body was that of an Afghan stewardess.

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 and deep snow meant the recovery operation began only on Sunday, and Faqir said helicopters were able to bring 90 Afghan soldiers as well as members of a commission investigating the crash to the mountaintop on Monday.

Dozens of coffins stand ready at a city hospital, though it is unclear how many of the bodies are intact. Afghan officials have warned that the recovery operation could take several weeks.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said Sunday the flight data recorder had been found, raising hopes that the cause of the crash can be established.

But U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Monday that the voice recorder containing conversations involving the pilot was still missing.

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.

Khalilzad said the data recorder was being taken to the United States for evaluation. American investigators are also involved because the plane was manufactured in the United States.

Six Americans were among the passengers on the doomed plane.

Update hourly