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127 feared dead in Pakistan crash

A passenger jet with 127 people on board has crashed into wheat fields near the Pakistani capital Islamabad as it tried to land in bad weather.

Sobbing relatives of those on the Bhoja Air flight flocked to the airport as a government minister expressed little hope of finding survivors.

Emergency workers and bystanders used torches to search among smouldering wreckage and body parts for any sign of life at the crash site, which was just a few miles away from the Benazir Bhutto International Airport.

The aircraft was a Boeing 737-200 operated by Bhoja Air, a domestic carrier that has just four planes and only resumed operations last month after suspending them in 2001 due to financial difficulties. The flight was travelling from the country's largest city of Karachi to the Pakistani capital, officials said.

Pakistan's defence minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhar said civil aviation officials had reported it was unlikely anyone had survived.

TV footage showed wreckage of the plane, including parts of what looked like its engine and wing, up against the wall of a small building. Rescue officials were working in the dark, with many using torches as they combed the area.

Bhoja Air started domestic operations in Pakistan in 1993 and eventually expanded to international flights to the United Arab Emirates in 1998. The company suspended operations in 2001 due to financial difficulties but resumed them only this year.

Relatives of those on the flight thronged the airline's counters at Karachi and Islamabad airports, crying.

"My brother's wife was on board this flight," said Naveed Khan, who was among family members who gathered at Karachi's airport. "We pray for the departed souls, what else can we do now?"

Wreckage, including smashed seats, clothes and jewellery belonging to passengers, was spread out over a half-mile area. Islamabad police chief Bani Yameen said that nobody on the ground appeared to be killed, "but apparently all onboard perished". Civil aviation officials also reported survivors were unlikely, said defence minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar.

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