Sunday, January 13, 2008


SKOPJE, Macedonia (January 13,2008)- A Macedonian army helicopter returning Macedonian soldiers from the EU-led peackeeping mission in Bosnia has crashed in foggy conditions near the Macedonian capital Skopje, killing all 11 people on board.

The Defence Macedonian Defence Ministry said the MI-17 helicopter crashed around noon yesterday about 10 kilometres southeast of the capital, Skopje, minutes before it was to land. Villagers nearby said they heard two explosions.The helicopter crashed around 1100 GMT as it prepared to land, the Macedonian officials said.

A police spokesman Ivo Kotevski said the aircraft came down and burst into flames near a village of Katlanovo, about 10km (six miles) south-east of the Macedonian capital Skopje.

Those killed in the crash included two helicopter crew members.

"This is a terrible accident, a great tragedy and a great loss," said the Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, after visiting the site of the crash.

The helicopter was returning from Bosnia, where Macedonia contributes 30 troops to a peacekeeping mission. It was the deadliest ever accident for the Macedonian air force.

The Macedonian government has established a special body to investigate the cause of the accident.The Chief of the Macedonian Army, General Miroslav Stojanovski said the helicopter was serviced regularly and operated by professional pilots.

Macedonia's military helicopter fleet is mostly made up of Russian-made Mi-24 attack helicopters and Mi-17 transport helicopters.

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