Plane carrying peacekeepers crashes in Egypt

Associated Press • May 6, 2007 at 8:42 AM

EL-NAKHL, Egypt - A plane carrying foreign peacekeepers across the Sinai desert crashed Sunday near a stretch of highway where it had tried to make an emergency landing, killing eight French soldiers and a Canadian, officials said.

Capt. Mohammed Badr, a police officer in Sinai, said the plane went down 50 miles from the nearest major town, el-Nakhl.

It appeared the Canadian-made DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter tried to land on the mountain highway but clipped a truck and crashed nearby, said Normand St. Pierre, a spokesman for the Multinational Force and Observers, an independent force created by Egypt and Israel to monitor their border in the Sinai after a 1979 peace deal.

The crash wiped out more than half of the 15-member French contingent and destroyed the mission's sole fixed-wing aircraft, St. Pierre said. The aircraft was on a training mission and carried a "higher than normal" load of passengers and crew. The truck driver escaped unharmed.

"The French government will have to decide whether it wants to rebuild the unit and send in a new plane," St. Pierre said. "It's a great loss."

Capt. Ihab Moheildin, the air control officer at Cairo International Airport, said the airport lost contact with the plane after receiving a distress signal, indicating a possible mechanical failure. Ahmad Attallah, a truck driver who was driving about 25 miles south of el-Nakhl told The Associated Press he saw the plane on its way down. "I looked up and saw a small plane with a trail of flame and smoke flying at a low altitude and then it disappeared and I heard an explosion," he said. The peacekeeping force includes troops from the United States, France, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Fiji, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand and Uruguay, plus a few officers from Norway. (AP) Associated Press writers Ashraf Sweillam in the Sinai Peninsula and Jim Krane in Dubai, United Arab Emirates contributed to this report. (AP) On the Net: http://www.mfo.org AP-CS-05-06-07 1108EDT

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