sinai 88 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
As many as nine foreign peacekeepers, including up to eight French soldiers, were killed Sunday when a French plane attached to the Sinai's multinational peacekeeping force crashed in a remote, mountainous area of the desert, the force's spokesman said.
Officials said they believed there were no survivors.
More soldiers than usual were aboard the aircraft at the time of the crash because it was on a training mission, said force spokesman Normand St. Pierre. Officials were still trying to determine the nationalities of all the victims.
The crash occurred almost exactly in the middle of the vast Sinai Peninsula, about 50 kilometers from a town called Nakhl, police said.
The peacekeeping force, officially called the Multinational Force & Observers, is an independent international organization created by Egypt and Israel to monitor their border in the Sinai after a 1979 peace deal.
It currently includes forces from the United States, France, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Fiji, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand and Uruguay, plus a few officers from Norway.
The French-made DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter plane crashed in clear sunny weather between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. local time, after taking off from the multinational force's El Gorah base - the northern headquarters of the peacekeeping mission, St. Pierre said.
The plane was being flown by the French contingent of MFO with what St. Pierre described as a "higher than normal" load of passengers and crew because it was on a training mission.
He said at least eight French forces died, and also one other soldier from another foreign contingent of the peacekeeping force.
St. Pierre said it was unclear how many people in all were aboard the Twin Otter, but other local, officials said only the nine who died were aboard - four crew and five passengers.
St. Pierre said his information on the crash came from local Egyptian authorities who arrived at the scene of the wreckage, and who told force officials that there appeared to be no survivors.
MFO personnel were en route, St. Pierre said.
"The locals said they saw a crash site and that everyone is dead. Our own people have not confirmed that," St. Pierre said.
He said he had "no idea" what caused the crash on what he described as a beautiful, warm sunny day.
"We lost air traffic communications, but as far as I know there was no report of problems," St. Pierre said.