103 Reported Killed as Iranian Army Plane Crashes; Altimeter Suspected

From Times Wire Services

An Iranian army transport plane crashed into a mountain near the Afghan and Pakistani borders, killing all 103 people on board, and a defective altimeter may have been to blame, Tehran radio reported Monday night.

According to the broadcast, the pilot of the U.S.-made Hercules C-130 was attempting to land at the Zahedan airport in southeastern Iran on Sunday night when the crash occurred.

The airport's control tower warned the pilot not to fly below 6,500 feet, the height of nearby mountains, during his approach, Tehran radio said. But the pilot was reported unable to heed the warning because of a fault in his altimeter, and the plane slammed into mountains six miles east of the airport.

The plane was transporting soldiers of the 88th Armored Division from the western Bakhtaran war front to Zahedan, in southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan province, Iranian military authorities were quoted as saying.

The crash was described as the nation's worst since an Iran Air passenger plane crashed six years ago near Tehran, killing all 128 people on board.

In September, 1981, a Hercules transport plane crashed near Tehran, killing four top military figures, including the defense minister and the armed forces chief of staff. Sabotage was suspected.

Iran waited more than 12 hours to release the news of Sunday's disaster.

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