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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The US military on Monday said it is investigating reports of a plane crash in Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan’s mountainous Ghazni province.
The Taliban claimed to have shot down a plane carrying US personnel. US officials told Reuters the aircraft was a small US military plane but had no indications that the plane had been brought down by enemy activity. One official said there were believed to be less than 10 people on the plane.
Officials would not publicly confirm that it was a US military plane that had crashed. US Army Maj Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for US Central Command, said that it remained unclear whose aircraft was involved in the crash and declined to immediately comment further.
"The plane, which was on an intelligence mission, was brought down in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province," Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, said in a statement. Another version of the statement said that the plane had crashed.
Mujahid did not say how fighters had brought the plane down. He said the crew on board included high ranking US officers. The Taliban often exaggerates enemy casualty figures and incidents involving American forces.
Pictures on social media purportedly from the crash site showed what could be the remains of a Bombardier E-11A aircraft, which the US military uses for electronic surveillance over Afghanistan.
“The plane was apparently dispatched for military operations and it took off from Afghanistan territory,” said Ghulam Masoom Massumi, the director of air traffic management at the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority. “The military plane was not a cargo plane,” Mr Massumi added.
He gave no details of the size and make of plane or the number of people on board.
Sources in Resolute Support, the Nato mission to support the Afghan government, told The National that no known US or coalition aircraft were involved. If the aircraft was indeed part of US electronic surveillance it may not have been recorded with Nato.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Afghanistan also denied reports that the plane was a commercial flight.
"According to our information from the Control Tower and Traffic Regulatory Authority, no commercial airline crash has been recorded. And Ariana Afghan Airlines have reassured us that all their planes are accounted for," said the organisation.
Crashes involving military flights, particularly helicopters, are common in Afghanistan where inclement weather and creaky aircraft are often pressed to their limits in the war-torn country – and where insurgents have been known to target helicopters.
Local sources told The National on Monday that the plane crashed and while officials initially believed it was a passenger jet none of the national carrier’s aircraft were involved.
In a statement, the spokesperson for Ghazni province Arif Noori said a foreign operated flight had crashed in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province and the initial assessment of the caused indicated a technical fault.
He said that it didn’t belong to any afghan airline but that the burned wreckage could not be identified nor could they ascertain the identity or nationalities the passengers aboard.
He added that rescue teams were at the scene and trying to transfer the bodies to the district centre.
Mr Noori was among several officials who initially said a Boeing plane belonging to Ariana Afghan Airlines went down around 130 kilometres from Kabul at about 1.10pm local time.
However, Ariana Airlines, the national carrier, denied their planes were involved.
After checking their fleet, airline director Alem Ibrahimi told The National that none of the company's planes were missing.
The company's acting director Mirwais Mirzakwal said the same.
"There has been an airline crash but it does not belong to Ariana because the two flights managed by Ariana today from Herat to Kabul and Herat to Delhi are safe," Mr Mirzakwal told Reuters.
Early reports had said the flight had been bound for both Harat or Delhi.
The area where the crash took place in Ghazni province is under Taliban control. The militant group controls large parts of the province. It has been waging a war against US-led forces since 2001. The mountainous province sits in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains and is bitterly cold in winter.
Vice President Sarwar Danish said he did not have details of which airline was operating the flight when it crashed.
The last civilian flight to crash was in May 2010, when an ageing Pamir Airways plane went down in bad weather during a scheduled flight to Kabul from the northern province of Kunduz.
It was carrying six crew and 38 passengers when it crashed into a mountainside 20 kilometres from Kabul.
In 2005, a Kam Air flight from the western city of Herat to Kabul crashed into the mountains as it tried to land in snowy weather.
The war, however, has seen a number of deadly crashes of military aircraft. One of the most spectacular occurred in 2013 when an American Boeing 747 cargo jet crashed shortly after takeoff from Bagram airbase north of Kabul.
Dozens of private entities operate planes and helicopters across Afghanistan to move military contractors and aid.
– additional reporting by agencies
Updated: January 27, 2020 08:20 PM
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