The Kam Air Boeing 737 travelling from Herat to Kabul vanished from radar screens on Thursday afternoon after requesting permission to divert because of heavy snow storms, officials said.

On Friday an official said wreckage had been found. "They located the crash site 57km east of Kabul," he said. 

No contact made

The plane's pilot was believed to have contacted Peshawar airport in Pakistan about an hour after it was turned away from Kabul airport, which was closed due to the snow, at 4pm (1130 GMT). However, Pakistani aviation officials said the plane never made contact with Peshawar.

"It was given clearance to land, but it never arrived" 

Atilla Kamgar, the airline's financial controller

Jehangir Khan, operations director of Pakistan's Civil Aviation Authority, said Afghan authorities contacted Pakistan shortly before 5pm regarding the missing aircraft, but it had not entered Pakistani air space. 

"I can confirm that no request was ever made by any captain of any Afghan aircraft to land at any airport in Pakistan," he said. "No Afghan aircraft has entered our airspace. We have also checked with defence authorities and all said no plane entered." 

Search operations

"The last time that we have been told that the aircraft was seen on radar was about 3.1 miles (5km) east of Kabul," Afghan Transport Minister Enayat Allah Qasimi said on Friday morning.

Passengers wait outside Kabul
airport for it to re-open

"Since this morning we have begun a search and rescue operation in the area."

An Aljazeera correspondent in Afghanistan said international peacekeepers and the Afghan military were searching for the jet.

Kam Air president Zamarai Kamgar said there were 96 passengers on board, including seven foreigners. Three were believed to be American health workers. The eight-strong crew included six Russians and two Afghans, Kamgar said.  

Previous accidents

Kam Air opened as Afghanistan's only private airline in November 2003. It flies leased aircraft between Kabul and Dubai and Istanbul and operates several domestic routes. 

Afghanistan Minister of Transport
Enayat Allah Qasimi

In September, an Antonov-24 operated by the airline skidded off the runway, apparently after engine trouble, while landing at Kabul airport, slightly injuring some of the 27 passengers aboard. 

In early 1998, a transport plane operated by state-run Ariana Afghan Airlines crashed in the mountains near the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, killing 51 people.

That plane apparently failed to land inside Afghanistan because of bad weather. 

And in March that year, 45 people were killed when another Ariana plane slammed into a mountain peak near Kabul.