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13 of the dead in Iran plane crash were crew

Thirteen of 16 people killed in a plane accident in northeastern Iran yesterday were crew and the three others were passengers, Iran's state television reported today.

The passenger plane, an Ilyushin Il-62 from Kazakhstan leased by Iran's Aria Aviation Company, veered from the runway and hit a wall while landing at Mashhad's Hasheminejad Airport.

Iranian media said 30 people were injured in the accident and they were being treated at three hospitals in the same city.

"Nine of the crew members killed in the incident were citizens of Kazakhstan and the remaining four were Iranians," Reza Jafarzadeh, the spokesman of Iran's aviation organisation told the official IRNA news agency on Saturday.

There were 153 people on board the aircraft, which had flown to Mashhad from Tehran. Iran's television showed images of the plane with its front completely damaged and said the accident was due to a malfunction in the aircraft's wheels.

Iranian media reported that the pilot was among the dead.

State television said the flying license of Aria Aviation Company had been suspended until an investigation into the plane crash was completed.

Mashhad is a popular pilgrimage destination for Shi'ite Muslims who make up the majority of Iran's population.

On July 15, a Russian-built Tupolev aircraft crashed in Iran on its way to Armenia, after catching fire mid-air and ploughing into farmland killing all 168 people on board. That accident, in which six Armenian and two Georgian citizens were killed, was the worst plane crash in Iran for six years.

Air safety experts have said Iran has a poor record, with a string of crashes in the past few decades -- many involving Russian-made aircraft.

US sanctions against Iran have prevented it from buying new aircraft or spares from the West, forcing it to supplement its ageing fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes with aircraft from the former Soviet Union.

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