CHENARI, Afghanistan -- Security forces yesterday turned back relatives trying to get to a freezing mountain where NATO soldiers found human remains but no survivors in the wreckage of an Afghan airliner four days after it struck a snowbound peak with 104 people on board.
NATO helicopters spotted parts of the wreckage some 11,000 feet up Chaperi Mountain on Saturday, but fog, low clouds, and up to 8 feet of snow had prevented teams from reaching the site.
Clear weather yesterday allowed a Spanish Cougar helicopter to drop five Slovenian mountain troops onto the mountain top 20 miles east of Kabul, where they trudged through snow to inspect pieces of fuselage.
''They did find human remains," NATO spokeswoman Major Karen Tissot Van Patot said. It was impossible to say how many bodies the remains belonged to, she said. The troops were lifted out as visibility deteriorated.
Officials believe all those aboard -- most of them Afghans, but also including more than 20 from other countries -- perished in what would be Afghanistan's worst aviation disaster.
Among those on the plane were three New England women who were on a trip for the Cambridge-based group Management Sciences for Health, which is helping to build a public health system in Afghanistan.
A team of 100 Afghan soldiers who got within 150 yards of the crash site yesterday were going to spend the night there ahead of medical teams that hoped to reach it today to collect bodies, Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammed Zaher Azimi said. ''It will take weeks to complete our job," Azimi said.
Down below, Afghan soldiers and police manned checkpoints to keep family members and media from the area, prompting anger among dozens of men eager to observe Muslim custom by quickly burying their dead.
Some evaded the checkpoints but returned disheartened as even their sport utility vehicles proved no match for the deep snow.
Afghan officials say air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane just after it was given permission to land. But the airline believes it turned away from Kabul toward Pakistan in search of an alternative airstrip before it hit the mountain.
The US military sought yesterday to quash speculation that the plane had been refused permission to land at the US base at Bagram, north of the capital.
''They were never denied," said Major Clay Berardi, a Marine Corps pilot. ''Up unto the point that this aircraft impacted to ground, they were on a normal approach."