KABUL/WASHINGTON, Jan 27 – A plane which U.S. officials described as a small U.S. military aircraft crashed in a Taliban-controlled area of central Afghanistan on Monday, and the insurgent group claimed to have brought it down.
The U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said there were no indications so far that the plane had been brought down by enemy activity. One of the officials said there were believed to be fewer than 10 people on board.
Pictures and a video on social media purportedly from the crash site showed what could be the remains of a Bombardier E-11A aircraft.
Senior Afghan officials told Reuters the authorities had rushed local personnel to locate and identify the wreckage, in a mountainous area partly controlled by the Taliban. Reuters journalists filmed Afghan soldiers heading towards the snow-covered mountains where the plane crashed in Ghazni province.
“The plane which was on an intelligence mission, was brought down in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban in a statement.
Mujahid did not say how fighters had brought the plane down. He said the crew on board included high ranking U.S. officers. A senior defense official denied that senior American officers were involved.
The Taliban control large parts of Ghazni province. The militant group, which has been waging a war against U.S.- led forces since 2001, often exaggerates enemy casualty figures.
Civilian airline Ariana Afghan Airlines denied initial reports that it was the owner of the plane.
“It does not belong to Ariana because the two flights managed by Ariana today, from Herat to Kabul and Herat to Delhi, are safe,” its acting CEO, Mirwais Mirzakwal, told Reuters.
Two officials from Ghazni province said the crashed aircraft appeared to belong to a foreign company.
“There is no exact information on casualties and the name of the airline,” Ghazni provincial governor Wahidullah Kaleemzai told private broadcaster Tolo News earlier on Monday.
Dozens of private entities operate planes and helicopters across Afghanistan to move military contractors and aid. (Reporting by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Idrees Ali. Additional reporting by Rupam Jain, Hamid Shalizi, Phil Stewart Editing by Peter Graff)