Tehran recovers black box from Turkish plane crash killing 11

Rescue workers carry the body of a passenger of a Turkish private jet that crashed in the Zagros Mountains outside of the city of Shahr-e Kord, Iran, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Tehran recovers black box from Turkish plane crash killing 11

TEHRAN: Investigators on Monday found the “black box” from a Turkish private jet that crashed in an Iranian mountain range on its way from the UAE to Istanbul, killing all 11 people on board that included a Turkish bride-to-be and her bachelorette party.
Authorities recovered all the dead from the crash site in the Zagros Mountains outside of the city of Shahr-e Kord, some 370 km south of Iran’s capital, Tehran, according to a report by the state-run IRNA news agency.
Officials have so far identified eight bodies, including that of Mina Basaran, the 28-year-old daughter of the chairman of Turkey’s Basaran Investment Holding, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported Monday.
Heavy rains and wind in the mountain range since the crash Sunday made it impossible for helicopters to land in the area, though officials hoped to bring the bodies down from the mountain later in the day, IRNA said.
Families of the victims arrived Monday in Shahr-e Kord, accompanied by Turkish diplomats, IRNA reported.
The flight took off Sunday from Sharjah International Airport in the UAE, home to the low-cost carrier Air Arabia. A little over an hour into the flight, the aircraft rapidly gained altitude and then dropped drastically within minutes, according to FlightRadar24, a flight-tracking website.
It remains unclear what caused the crash, though a witness told state television the Bombardier CL604 was on fire before it hit the mountain.
Finding the aircraft’s “black box” will help investigators trying to piece together what happened. That equipment, typically painted in a bright color to allow searchers to easily find it, records cockpit conversations and radio transmissions, as well as other data from a flight.
Sharjah civil aviation authorities said in a statement late Sunday night that the plane’s eight passengers were six Turks and two Spaniards. Three others were the flight crew.
“The plane did not apply for maintenance procedures while on the ground of the airport,” their statement said.
Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper and other media reports said the plane’s three crew members — two pilots and one flight attendant — were all women as well.


First Russia air strikes hit south Syria as assault looms

Forces loyal to President Bashar Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone. (AP)
Updated 34 min 16 sec ago
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First Russia air strikes hit south Syria as assault looms

  • Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there
  • Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year

BEIRUT: Russia bombed rebel-held parts of southern Syria late Saturday for the first time since brokering a cease-fire there nearly a year ago, a monitor group said, as allied regime troops prepare a ground assault.
Southern Syria is a strategic prize for local and global players involved in the country’s convoluted seven-year war.
After securing the capital Damascus, Syrian President Bashar Assad appears keen to recapture the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida, still mostly held by rebels.
He has sent military reinforcements there for weeks, dropped flyers demanding rebels surrender, and escalated bombardment in recent days.
Late Saturday night, his Russian allies bombed rebel-held towns in Daraa for the first time since the summer of 2017, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“Intense Russian air strikes are hitting towns in Daraa’s eastern countryside for the first time since the cease-fire was agreed in southern Syria last year,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
The Observatory said the warplanes used Saturday — based on type, location, munitions and flight patterns — had come from the Russian-operated Hmeimim base in coastal Syria.
The Britain-based monitor said at least 25 Russian strikes hit the rebel zones but did not have any casualty figures.

Russia, the United States, and Jordan agreed in July of last year on a de-escalation zone in rebel-controlled parts of southern Syria that would tamp down hostilities there.
Since then, Moscow’s warplanes — active in Syria since 2015 — had refrained from bombing rebel positions in the south.
But violence has been ratcheting up this week as Syrian government forces look to retake the south militarily.
Forces loyal to Assad began ramping up their air strikes and artillery fire on the zone on Tuesday.
At least 19 civilians in rebel-held zones have died since then, according to the Observatory.
Several civilians have also been killed in opposition fire on government zones, with state news agency SANA reporting Saturday that two civilians were killed in Daraa city in rebel shelling.
Some 12,000 people have been displaced from Daraa province in recent days, the Observatory said, with many seeking refuge in poorly-equipped displacement camps further west.
The United Nations has warned that growing violence is putting the lives of 750,000 people in rebel parts of the south in danger.
On Saturday, regime forces took two villages in Daraa province, their first ground gains after days of bombardment, the Observatory said.

“The Russian strikes started around 10:30pm local time (1930 GMT) and stopped after midnight,” said Ibrahim Mohammad, a media activist in the battered rebel town of Busr Al-Harir in Daraa.
He said he and other residents had taken to their basements and bomb shelters as soon as they heard the planes, describing a steady thud of bombardment for nearly two hours.
In an effort to avoid a deadly offensive, international powers are holding talks aimed at reaching a negotiated settlement for Syria’s south.
“All sides should seize the opportunity to negotiate a deal for the conditional return of the Syrian state to the south west and avert a military conclusion that, for all sides and the local population, would be a worse outcome,” wrote the International Crisis Group think tank last week.
“The US, Russia and Jordan, which brokered a south-western cease-fire in 2017, should urgently extend that truce in preparation for a broader settlement,” the report added.
Earlier this month, Assad said contacts were ongoing between Russia, the United States and Israel over the southern front.
“We are giving the political talks a chance, but if they fail, there will be no choice but liberation by force,” he said.
The regime has retaken large parts of Syria from the opposition since Russia intervened militarily on its side in 2015.