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Mon, Jan 23, 2006

Search Scaled Back For Lost Aid Helicopter

Flying For Red Cross In Earthquake Relief Efforts

NATO forces have scaled back their search for a Mi-8 helicopter that went down Sunday as it was returning from a relief flight into earthquake-stricken Pakistan. Seven Turkish crewmembers were onboard the Russian-made helo, which had been chartered by the Red Cross.

The helicopter (file photo of type, above) was last seen on Friday, according to Agence France-Presse, and no one knows what caused the copter to disappear.

A coalition of NATO forces and US forces operating in Afghanistan assisted in the search, but to no avail.

"Where possible we are going to follow the same flight path [as the helicopter] and keep an eye out for it," said NATO spokesman Andy Elmes. However, "the focused search that we carried out for two days -- we are not able to keep that up anymore... We have to get on with our operations."

Afghan defense ministry officials state the Mi-8 was last seen on its radar screens at 12:13 local time Friday flying over Nangarhar province, in eastern Afghanistan, after it departed from the Pakistani city of Peshawar. It was reportedly heading to refuel in the Afghan capital of Kabul, before returning to is base in Turkmenistan.

"We have been searching for this chopper for 48 hours but there's no sign of it," Afghan deputy transport minister Raz Mohammed Alami told the Associated Press.

"If it had gone down on our side of the border, we would have found it," he added.



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