A Tupolev passenger jet crashed in north western Iran and 168 people on board were killed, reports have said.

Many Feared Dead After Jet Crash In Iran

The Caspian Airlines aircraft was carrying 153 passengers and 15 crew, Reza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for Iran's aviation organisation, told state television.

State television showed footage of debris from the plane and some body parts.

"It's been a major disaster with pieces of aircraft spread over an area of 200 square metres," a fire brigade official told Iranian state television.

"There was an explosion which left an indentation 10 metres deep in the ground. There was nothing we could do. We tried to put out the fire as best we could," he said.

Other television pictures showed a large crater gouged into farmland with mangled pieces of metal scattered around.

Smoke rose from the site as police and bystanders gathered nearby.

The plane was travelling from Tehran to Yerevan in Armenia when it came down at 7.03am GMT, near the city of Qazvin, the official IRNA news agency said.

It crashed 16 minutes after take-off from the capital's Imam Khomeini International airport, the agency said.

The semi-official Fars News Agency quoted a senior provincial official, Sirous Saberi, as saying the plane had experienced technical problems and had attempted an emergency


"Unfortunately the plane caught fire in the air and it crashed... different small parts of this plane can be seen on the ground," he said.

Qazvin police commander Massoud Jafari told IRNA, "Evidence shows that this passenger plane has been completely destroyed."

Caspian Airlines is a Russian-Iranian joint venture founded in 1993.

Iran has frequent plane crashes, which it blames on US sanctions on the country that prevent it from getting spare parts for aging airplanes.

But Caspian Airlines uses Russian-made aircraft whose maintenance would be less impaired by American sanctions.