The bodies of 17 Spanish peacekeepers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan are on their way home. They are being accompanied by Spanish Defence Minister Jose Bono who had travelled to the scene of the disaster. At a solemn ceremony at an Afghan airport, the coffins were put on a military transport plane.
Spain’s prime minister and the country’s King Juan Carlos will be present as the remains of the soldiers arrive back on home soil.
Madrid suspects strong winds caused the helicopter to come down during an exercise near Herat in western Afghanistan. However a senior Taliban commander says the group’s fighters shot it down and, with five other soldiers hurt when a second helicopter made an emergency landing, Afghan authorites have suggested the two aircraft may have collided.
As an investigation continues, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero visited Spanish military bases touched by the tragedy. There were emotional scenes as the prime minister met families in mourning. The victims had been serving as part of the NATO-led peacekeeping operation in Afghanistan.
They will be given a state funeral at a date yet to be fixed.