Military teams on Sunday found decomposing bodies and the passport of U.N. envoy Alioune Blondin Beye near the wreckage of a light aircraft that crashed in Ivory Coast, witnesses said.
A Reuters Television cameraman at the scene of Friday night's crash near Abidjan said it was considered impossible to carry out identification of the bodies immediately.In addition to Beye, the plane was carrying one U.N. observer each from Britain, Chad, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo. Officials in Togo, from where the plane was flying to Abidjan, said it had three crew members.
"The identities of Beye and all five U.N. officials traveling with him were found," the cameraman added, referring to the U.N. officials' passports found at the crash site.
Beye's date of birth was given as Jan. 8, 1939.
A team of Ivorian and French army rescuers backed by local civilians hacked through forests and marshlands to reach the wreckage, which was sighted from helicopters on Saturday.
Rescuers gathered the identity papers, which were burnt at the edges but otherwise intact, and placed them in plastic bags.
They then covered the bodies with black plastic sheets.
In New York, U.N. spokeswoman Judith Modeste said, "The rescue team reached the site of the crash, collected the passports, but there was no evidence of survivors. They have called off the rescue efforts for today and will continue on Monday."
The twin-turboprop Beechcraft 200 crashed about five to 10 minutes before it was due to land at Abidjan airport on Friday night, aviation officials said.
Beye, a scholarly former foreign minister of Mali, was on a shuttle mission to African capitals to canvass support for plans to avert another bloodbath in civil-war-ravaged Angola.
Beye, an expert in law and administration, was sent to Angola in 1993 by former U.N. secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali to replace Margaret Anstee of Britain.
Before then he was secretary-general of the Abidjan-based African Development Bank. His family still lives in Abidjan.
A senior Ivorian official said earlier there appeared to be little hope of finding any survivors from the crash.
But he said a formal announcement on the fate of Beye and the U.N. observers would be made only after U.N. headquarters in New York had been informed of the search result.
U.N. aviation experts arrived earlier from Geneva and joined in efforts to reach the wreckage of the plane.