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Search for missing airmen suspended

Rescue teams have called off the search for two RAF airmen who went missing after two Tornado jets crashed off the north coast of Scotland, the Ministry of Defence said.

Four personnel from RAF Lossiemouth were involved in the incident, in which the Tornado GR4s came down in the Moray Firth on Tuesday. A rescue helicopter picked up two people who were taken to hospital in Inverness, and have since been searching for the remaining pair.

A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesman confirmed the search had been suspended at around 7.30pm, adding: "The search was called off due to bad weather and the intention is to go back up tomorrow when the weather clears."

Aberdeen coastguard contacted the RNLI for assistance at about 1.50pm after reports that the jets came down about 25 miles south of Wick. About 15 lifeboat volunteers joined the rescue operation in boats from Wick, Invergordon and Buckie, the RNLI said.

The boats headed for the Beatrice oil field area, supported by a helicopter from Stornoway in the Western Isles.

Crew from the Buckie boat reported that two people were taken from the sea by helicopter and flown to Raigmore Hospital, although their condition is not known.

Group Captain Ian Gale, the station commander, in a statement released by the MoD: "The circumstances remain uncertain but clearly this is a very serious incident. This incident involved four aircrew, all personnel from this station, and the thoughts of everyone here are with the families and friend of those involved."

He would not comment on the aircrew's condition or the circumstances of the incident. "I can confirm that two individuals have been recovered and two remain unaccounted for," he said.

"What happened today is under investigation and more details will be released by the Royal Air Force in due course.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said: "This is clearly a very serious incident and my thoughts are with the loved ones of those affected. I understand rescue services have done all they can to help with the situation and offer my thanks to all those involved. The Scottish Government stands ready to offer any necessary assistance, and we will make a further statement once more details are confirmed."

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