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Pakistan International Airlines Crash: 48 Presumed Dead After Plane Goes Down

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(NBC) -  A passenger plane carrying 48 people crashed into a mountainside in northern Pakistan on Wednesday, officials said.

"All passengers are presumed dead," said Sher Ali, a spokesman for Pakistan International Airlines.

Emergency response teams from the company were heading to the site, "which is in the mountains, and not an easy place to access," he said.

Ali said the cause of the crash was not known, but that the aircraft had issued a mayday call near the city of Abbottabad.

Pakistan International Airlines, the country's national flag carrier, said flight PK-661 came down around 45 miles from its destination of Islamabad.

The ATR-42 twin-turboprop plane was en route from the northern city of Chitral when it crashed around 4:45 p.m. local time (6:45 a.m. ET) near the town of Havelian, the airline said in a statement.

Locals sent photographs to NBC News showing a large fire and wreckage strewn across the blackened hillside.

Witnesses said that "the aircraft has crashed in a mountainous area, and before it hit the ground it was on fire," local government official Taj Muhammad Khan told Reuters.

The plane was carrying 42 passengers, five crew members and one ground engineer, according to the airline.

Among them were three foreigners, including a Chinese national, airline spokesman Mushtaq Ghani told NBC News. Also on board was Pakistani pop icon turned Muslim preacher, Junaid Jamshed, the airline confirmed.

Military spokesman Col. Shafiq Ahmed told NBC News the army was "moving army troops and helicopter to the crash site." The prime minister's press secretary, Mohiuddin Wani, said in a text message that the "PM has ordered all authorities to reach the site start the rescue and relief efforts."

The ATR-42 has suffered 20 crashes since its introduction in 1985, according the Aviation Safety Network online databases.

Last year, 54 people died when a Trigana Air Service ATR-42 crashed in Indonesia. The flight was also carrying around $470,000 destined for the country remote villages.

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