TIRANA, Albania – Search teams recovered the bodies Friday of nine Americans killed when a U.S. military aircraft crashed in mountainous southern Albania during a joint exercise, Albanian military authorities said.
The C-130 airplane (search) crashed Thursday night near the remote village of Rovie, in the Drizez Mountains, 60 miles southeast of the Balkan country's capital, Tirana. No one on board survived, said Albanian army Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Pellumb Qazimi.
Four bodies were found earlier Friday, and five more were found inside the plane, Albanian officials said. The military transport was assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Group (search) based in Mildenhall in England.
The U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said the cause of the crash was being investigated but did not comment on the fate of the crew, saying the "status of the individuals on board is yet to be determined."
Albania, seeking eventual membership in NATO (search), has close ties to the U.S. military. It backed the American-led campaign in Iraq, where it has deployed a small unit of 71 troops. Albania also has peacekeeping contingents in Afghanistan and in nearby Bosnia.
The U.S. ambassador to Albania, Marcie B. Ries, thanked Qazimi for the search effort.
"This is an example of the excellent cooperation existing between the United States and Albania," Ries said. "We are very grateful for the tremendous support from the Albanian military."