"According to preliminary reports, 11 people were on their way from Bosnia," he told reporters at the crash site.

 

"So far, seven bodies have been identified." A government statement said there were no survivors.

       

Reports said the helicopter was completely destroyed, scattering debris up to 100 metres from the site.

   

The helicopter was returning Macedonian soldiers from European Union-led peackeeping operations in Bosnia.

 

"This ia terrible accident, a great tragedy and a great loss," Branko Crvenkovski, the Macedonian president, said. The government announced a national day of mourning.

   

Macedonia's military helicopter fleet is mostly made up of Russian-made Mi-24 attack helicopters and Mi-17s, bought in 2001 during an ethnic Albanian guerrilla insurgency.