An aircraft crashed in a Taliban-controlled area outside Kabul on Monday, officials said, but key details were unclear, as officials initially said it was a passenger plane before evidence emerged that the craft may have belonged to the American military.
The plane crashed in the district of Deh Yak in Ghazni Province during a day of harsh weather, said Adam Khan Sirat, a spokesman for the Ghazni police. Mr. Sirat, as well as other senior officials in Afghanistan, including the country’s vice president, initially said it was a passenger plane operated by the country’s national carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines.
But hours later, Mr. Sirat said the plane belonged to “foreign forces,” referring to the American-led military coalition in Afghanistan. About 12,000 American troops and thousands of NATO forces remain in Afghanistan, spread around the country. Officers from the headquarters in Kabul frequently shuttle to the bases in aircraft.
Video and images posted on Fars’s social media accounts appeared to show a Bombardier E-11A jet, a US Air Force plane. The US military uses this type of plane for electronic surveillance over Afghanistan.
🎥هواپیمای سقوط کرده در غزنی افغانستان؛ نشان «نیروی هوایی ارتش آمریکا» بر روی بدنه این هواپیما دیده میشود pic.twitter.com/qzDVtoLvsv
— خبرگزاری فارس (@FarsNews_Agency) January 27, 2020
The posted pictures and videos of what appeared to be a military aircraft in flames amid snow. Officials said the harsh weather and the inaccessibility of land controlled by the Taliban had made gathering information difficult.
The aircraft came down around 1 p.m. local time, officials in Ghazni said, and confusion about even the most basic details continued for hours. The country’s vice president, Sarwar Danish, who said it had been a passenger plane, even expressed “condolences about their martyrdom to the people of Afghanistan.”
But hours later, Alem Shah Ibrahimi, the president of Ariana, said the company’s initial information showed that “all our fleet are located.” Qasim Wafayezadathe, the head of Afghanistan’s civil aviation agency, said it had confirmed that no civilian plane had crashed.
Meanwhile, the Taliban claimed responsibility for bringing down the US forces aircraft . A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement posted online: “An American invader aircraft has been shot down. Lots of officers have been killed.” He claimed high-ranking CIA officers had been onboard the plane. His claims however could not be verified.
Tariq Ghazniwal, a local journalist said he saw two bodies but others had counted a total of five.