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Iran Plane Crash Kills  All 168 Aboard

An Iranian passenger jet flying from Tehran to the Armenian capital Yerevan crashed in a field near the city of Qazvin, killing all 168 people on board. The plane was a Russian-made Tupolev model that is not allowed to fly over Western Europe.

The plane, which belonged to Iran's Caspian Airlines, was headed from Tehran to the Armenian capital Yerevan.

Iran's civil aviation authority spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh told English-language Press TV the plane crashed 16 minutes after takeoff from Tehran's Imam Khomeini Airport.

The Iranian News Network indicated the plane was carrying Iran's national judo team, and a spokesman for the team said he feared that its athletes, who were due to compete in Armenia, were all lost.

The international spokesman for Iran's Red Crescent Society, Abdal Raouf Adeeb, told al-Alam TV rescue workers from his organization are sifting through the debris from the plane.

He said the weather at the time of the crash was bad and the plane crashed in a rural, farming area with few residents. he said the plane broke up into very small pieces, making identification difficult. He also noted the black box from the plane was found and it should eventually reveal the cause of the crash.

The plane, a Russian-built Tupolev 154M jet from the 1980s, is an aging aircraft that is no longer allowed to fly over most western European airspace because of noise regulations.

Unconfirmed reports said the Russian pilot of the plane may have been attempting an emergency landing after facing engine problems, shortly after takeoff.

Iranian TV showed a large crater and indicated the plane was probably traveling at high speed when it crashed.

Iran has suffered from a rash of plane crashes in recent years, due to an aging fleet of passenger jets, many of which are leased from Russia. Economic sanctions have also prevented Iran from purchasing spare parts for many of its older Boeing and Airbus jets.