Eleven die as UN surveillance plane crashes

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Crews battling rough, remote terrain hope to remove the bodies of 11 military personnel today, a day after their UN surveillance plane slammed into a mountain in Haiti, killing everyone on board.

UN police stood guard at the crash site overnight after ambulances were ordered back to their bases late yesterday. One driver said they would return in the morning.

The Uruguayan CASA212 aircraft went down yesterday afternoon near the border with the Dominican Republic, 30 miles from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, according to UN spokeswoman Michele Montas in New York.

"The aircraft was on a regular reconnaissance flight," she said in a statement.

The victims were Uruguayan and Jordanian troops serving with the 9,000-strong UN peacekeeping force that has been in Haiti since a 2004 rebellion ousted former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Montas said.

Through Montas, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon extended "his heartfelt condolences to the family members, friends and colleagues of these brave peacekeepers who lost their lives in the service of peace."

Dozens of UN vehicles were parked last night near a highway between Port-au-Prince and the Dominican border. With no roads near the crash site, access was tricky and rescuers had to clamber overland to reach it and confirm there were no survivors.

Haitian police officer David Charles told The Associated Press that personnel from his convoy walked about two hours up the mountain but were not able to reach the crash site because it was on the other side of a ridge and a river.

Charles said he saw the white plane in the distance and a large piece had broken off.

The United Nations has begun an investigation, Montas said.

It was unclear why the plane was doing surveillance near the border or how often such surveillance flights take place. The UN peacekeeping mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.