One dead, five missing after two US military planes crash off Japan

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A Japan Coast Guard patrol vessel and US Navy airplane conduct a search and rescue operation at the area where two US Marine Corps aircraft collided, off the coast of Kochi prefecture, Japan. (Reuters)
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In this July 14, 2015 photograph courtesy of the US Air Force, a C-130 Hercules takes off during a training exercise at Yokota Air Base, Japan. (AFP file photo)
Updated 06 December 2018
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One dead, five missing after two US military planes crash off Japan

  • A statement from the US Marines in Japan said the two planes involved in the accident were an F-18 fighter and a C-130 tanker
  • Two of the seven crew, one deceased, one alive, have been found

TOKYO: One US Marine died and five were missing Thursday after two American military aircraft crashed during a refueling operation off the coast of Japan, officials said.
Japanese and US military officials earlier said two of the seven crew of the planes had been found.
“One is in fair condition and the other has been declared deceased by competent medical personnel,” the US Marine Corps said late Thursday.
“US military and the Japanese Self-Defense planes and vessels are searching for those still missing... I hope all the members will be rescued safely as soon as possible,” Japanese Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya said.
The search would continue through the night, Kyodo news agency reported.
The Marines were conducting “regularly scheduled training” when the crash occurred around 2:00 am local time, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force said in a statement.
The F/A-18 fighter jet with two crew onboard and a KC-130 refueling tanker with five crew crashed into the sea around 100 kilometers (55 nautical miles) off the cape of Muroto in southwestern Japan, Iwaya said.
The crew member rescued had been in the fighter jet, the minister confirmed.
Japan’s SDF had deployed nine aircraft and three vessels for the search, he said.
“We are thankful for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s efforts as they immediately responded in the search and rescue operation,” the Marines said.
A spokesman for the Japanese coast guard said six vessels and an aircraft had been dispatched separately to assist in the rescue efforts.
There are few details about the circumstances of what the Marines described as a “mishap” and an investigation is underway.
Public broadcaster NHK sent a helicopter to try to find the crash site but was unable to locate it due to heavy fog and rain.
During a normal KC-130 refueling operation, the tanker aircraft trails a hose from the back of the plane with a so-called “drogue,” shaped a bit like a windsock, at the end.
The fighter jet then inserts a probe inside the drogue to receive fuel, which it can do at a rate of up to 300 gallons per minute, according to globalsecurity.org.
The US military has about 50,000 troops stationed in Japan and accidents are not uncommon.
In November, a US navy fighter jet crashed into the sea off Japan’s southern island of Okinawa and its two crew members were rescued alive.
And in November 2017, a C-2A “Greyhound” aircraft with 11 people on board went down in the Philippine Sea — eight were rescued and the search was called off for the remaining three after a two-day search.
The US military has also experienced difficulties with its Osprey helicopters, with several emergency landings, a deadly crash and a piece of chopper falling on the grounds of a Japanese school.
Those incidents have stoked tensions between close military allies Washington and Tokyo and led to protests against the deployment of Ospreys by residents living near US bases.
Iwaya said the incident was “regrettable but at this point we are doing our utmost to rescue those still missing.”
“Later, if we get to know the details of the accident, we will take appropriate measures,” added Iwaya.
He said that there was no information that any passing vessels were affected by the crash.
Yoshihiko Fukuda, mayor of Iwakuni that hosts the US base where the two aircraft were based, told the city assembly he had asked the military to halt operations until the cause of the accident became clear.
“I will urge the government and the US military to take thorough measures in finding out the cause of the accident and preventing a repeat,” said Fukuda.
The US ambassador to Japan, Bill Hagerty, said he was sending “heartfelt thoughts and prayers to families and colleagues of those still missing” and also praised the Japanese response.


Afghan president Ashraf Ghani registers for re-election

Updated 25 min 46 sec ago
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Afghan president Ashraf Ghani registers for re-election

  • Ashraf Ghani, who is seeking a second term, was elected in a fraud-tainted poll in 2014
  • De facto prime minister Abdullah Abdullah is among at least 14 other candidates who have joined the race

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday formally registered as a candidate for Afghanistan’s delayed presidential election, setting up a rematch with Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in the July ballot.
Ghani, who is seeking a second term, was elected in a fraud-tainted poll in 2014 that was only resolved in a US-brokered power-sharing deal with Abdullah.
De facto prime minister Abdullah — Ghani’s partner in the fragile unity government — is among at least 14 other candidates who have joined the race.
The president has replaced his current first vice president, Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, with Amrullah Saleh, an ethnic Tajik and a staunch opponent of the Taliban, for his 2019 ticket.
Ghani, an ethnic Pashtun, needs to expand his support beyond Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group and build alliances with other ethnicities.
“A strong government can solve the current crisis. The crisis this country has faced in the past 40 years has been because of lack of a strong government,” Ghani said.
But his presidency has been marred by growing militant violence, record civilian casualties, political infighting, deepening ethnic divisions and fading hopes for peace.
The election slated for July 20 comes after President Donald Trump signaled he would bring home half of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan as he grows impatient over America’s longest-ever war.
Washington is stepping up efforts for a peace deal that could pave the way for the Taliban’s participation in the next government, with the US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad visiting regional powers this month after meeting Taliban representatives last month in Abu Dhabi.
But many Afghans are worried a US pull-out could destabilize the Kabul government and ultimately spark another bloody civil war.
There are also concerns the presidential election, which will now be held in the middle of the Taliban’s traditional fighting season, could unleash a wave of deadly violence as militants seek to disrupt the vote.