More than 70 people, 62 of them Spanish peacekeeping troops returning from duty in Afghanistan, were killed Monday when their airplane crashed and exploded in flames in northeast Turkey.

Turkish officials said the Russian-built, Ukrainian-operated YaK-42 transport plane crashed early Monday near the Black Sea Port of Trabzon after several failed attempts to land.

The authorities said the plane was trying to touch down in thick fog and went down on its third attempt to land on a refueling stop at Trabzon airport.

Search and rescue operations are continuing in and around the hills near the town of Macka, in Trabzon province.

Television images showed the still smoking debris of the plane, a huge pile of twisted and burned metal spread across a wide area.

Turkish officials say they have begun recovering bodies from the wreckage and that it is unlikely they will find any survivors.

The Spanish Defense Ministry confirmed from Madrid that there were 62 Spanish soldiers on board in addition to 12 crew members.

The plane was flying from Biskek, Kyrgzstan, to Zaragoza, Spain.

Turkish officials are quoted as saying the pilot of the plane had reported he was unable to see the runway because of the thick fog.

The Spanish troops had been posted to Afghanistan as part of a 4,600-strong peacekeeping force responsible for security around the capital, Kabul, and had just finished a four-month tour of duty.