Macedonian Army Helicopter Crash Kills 11

A Macedonian Army MI-17 helicopter crashed Saturday 25 kilometers southeast of Skopje, near the Katlanovsko Blato area, killing all 11 people on board.

The Defense Ministry confirmed the accident, the deadliest ever for the Macedonian air force.

The helicopter was returning from Bosnia, where Macedonia contributes 30 troops to a peacekeeping mission.

The accident took place in foggy conditions, minutes before landing.

The helicopter crashed around noon local time. Villagers nearby heard two explosions.

Macedonian officials, including President Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska, were taken to the site immediately.

"This is a terrible accident and a big tragedy. My condolences go to the families of the soldiers," Gruevski said.

The Macedonian government held an emergency cabinet meeting.

The Chief of the Army, Gen. Miroslav Stojanovski, told the government the helicopter was serviced regularly and operated by professional pilots.

The government established a special body to investigate the cause of the accident.

It did not announce the names of those killed, and invited a foreign forensic expert to assist in the identification.