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Missing Afghan jetliner crashed outside Kabul

104 people onboard

Aviation accidents

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Rescue teams have located the wreckage of an Afghan passenger jet that crashed two days ago with 104 people aboard, but severe weather and mountainous terrain have prevented rescuers from reaching the site.

Although Afghan officials are still deeming the operation a rescue mission, army commanders who came within a short distance of the crash site said it is unlikely that anyone is alive.

Six Americans were on the Boeing 737, U.S. State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez said Saturday.

Three of the Americans were health workers, according to a statement from Management Sciences for Health, the Massachusetts-based company that employed them.

The statement named the three as Cristin (Cristi) Gadue, Amy Lynn Niebling and Carmen Urdaneta.

Dr. Jonathan Quick, the company's chief executive officer, described the three employees as "vibrant, committed young women, each doing great work."

"They each stood out as professionals who worked with exceptional energy and enthusiasm," Quick said.

The wreckage of the Kam Air flight was found Saturday about 20 miles (30 km) south-southeast of Kabul.

The site -- at an elevation of about 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) -- was spotted by an Apache helicopter from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), according to an officer with ISAF, which has been leading the search.

An ISAF rescue and recovery team was airlifted to the site and took pictures of the wreckage that showed the Kam Air logo. The team was forced to turn back because of the weather.

Mountainous terrain

The search for the flight began Friday morning and included an unmanned video drone and Apache and Black Hawk helicopters, which were used to scour the mountainous region.

The Afghan capital sits on a high plateau and is ringed by mountains. Flights are often canceled during the winter because of poor visibility, and Kabul's airport does not have advanced radar technology that could help pilots land in bad weather.

The flight from Herat in western Afghanistan was scheduled to land in Kabul Thursday afternoon. Local media reported that residents east of Kabul in the community of Butkhak heard a loud explosion about the time the jetliner went missing.

Airline President Zimarai Kamgar said the crew consisted of six Russians and two Afghans. Ninety-six passengers were on board, including nine Turks.

A man working for a Dutch engineering company was also believed to be among those on the flight.

Journalist Victoria Burnett in Kabul contributed to this report.

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