| GEO World|
| Iran airliner crashes, all 168 on board feared dead|
| Updated at: 1654 PST, Wednesday, July 15, 2009|
TEHRAN: An Iranian airliner crashed into farmland in the northwest of the country on Wednesday, and all 168 people on board are believed to be dead, officials and local media reported.
The Caspian Airlines plane crashed near the city of Qazvin, northwest of the capital, shortly after takeoff from Tehran's international Imam Khomeini airport, local media said.
Civil aviation spokesman Reza Jafarzadeh said 153 passengers and 15 crew members were on board the airliner, which was flying to the Armenian capital Yerevan.
"The plane took off from the Imam Khomeini airport and 16 minutes later it disappeared off the radar and then it crashed," he said, giving the takeoff time at 11:33 am (0703 GMT).
"We can not confirm anything more before we receive additional information from the team that we despatched at the crash site."
State television's website said all aboard were "most probably were dead."
"The passenger plane was completed destroyed and the wreckage was scattered everywhere," a local news agency quoted Qazvin police chief Masoud Jafari Nasab as saying.
"Most probably all passengers on board have been killed in the crash," he said, adding that the plane had crashed in farmland near the village of Janat Abad.
A local English-language channel said the plane was believed to be a Russian-built Tupolev.
Iran, which has been under years of international sanctions, has suffered a number of aviation disasters over the past decade.
Twenty-nine people were killed in September 2006 when an airliner came off the runway after landing in the eastern city of Mashhad and burst into flames.
In November 2006, an Iranian military plane crashed on takeoff at Tehran's Mehrabad airport, killing all 39 people on board, including 30 members of the elite Revolutionary Guards force
Iran's civil and military fleet is made up of ancient aircraft in very poor condition due to their age and lack of maintenance. The Iranian regime is barred by sanctions from buying American Boeing planes or European Airbus craft when they include a significant number of US parts.
Caspian Airlines was established in 1992 in Tehran, according to its website.
It said it operates more than 50 regular and numerous charter flights each week between Iranian cities and international flights to Hungary, the United Arab Emirates, Syria, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Turkey.