Thousands attend farewell ceremony for victims of air crash

FORTY-TWO men and women who died in the crash of a Slovak military plane on January 19 were buried yesterday with full military honours.

The ceremony took place in the eastern Slovak city of Prešov.

The victims, Slovak soldiers who were returning home from a NATO peacekeeping mission in Kosovo, left 35 children behind, the Pravda daily wrote.

The weeping of bereaved families was the only sound to be heard in the hall, where 42 coffins lay covered with Slovak national flags. Sorrow and tears were also visible on the faces of dozens of fellow soldiers, including the Czech colleagues of the deceased from the KFOR mission who had come to bid farewell to their Slovak peers.

The city sports hall in Prešov was full of mourners, and thousands more watched the ceremony on screens outside the hall. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was present at the ceremony along with dozens of other international guests.

The Ukraine-built An-24 plane crashed close to the village of Telkybánia in north-eastern Hungary only a few minutes from a scheduled arrival at Košice Airport. The circumstances of the disaster are still under investigation.

Compiled by Martina Jurinová from press reports
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