US army investigating plane crash in Taliban-held area

Afghan National Army forces go towards the site of an airplane crash in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan January 27, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 January 2020

US army investigating plane crash in Taliban-held area

  • The Taliban said it had shot down a US military plane
  • US officials said they were still investigating the cause of the crash

KABUL: A US military aircraft crashed in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, a Taliban spokesman and Afghan journalist affiliated with the militant group said.
Tariq Ghazniwal, a journalist in the area, said that he saw the burning aircraft. In an exchange on Twitter, he told The Associated Press that he saw two bodies and the front of the aircraft was badly burned. He added that aircraft's body and tail were hardly damaged. His information could not be independently verified.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a US airforce plane crashed in the Ghazni province. He claimed the crash killed “lots" of US service members. The militant group often exaggerates casualty figures.
Ghazniwal said the crash site was about 10 kilometers from a US military base.
US Army Maj. Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for US Central Command, declined to comment when told about the Taliban claim. She earlier acknowledged American military officials were investigating reports of a crash in Afghanistan. She said that it remained unclear whose aircraft was involved in the crash.
Riordan declined to immediately comment further.
However, 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.
Images on social media purportedly of the crashed plane showed an aircraft bearing US Air Force markings similar to other E-11A surveillance aircraft photographed by aviation enthusiasts. Visible registration numbers on the plane also appeared to match those aircraft.
The so-called Battlefield Airborne Communications Node can be carried on unmanned or crewed aircraft like the E-11A. It is used by the military to extend the range of radio signals and can be used to convert the output of one device to another, such as connecting a radio to a telephone.
Colloquially referred to by the US military as “Wi-Fi in the sky,” the BACN system is used in areas where communications are otherwise difficult, elevating signals above obstacles like mountains. The system is in regular use in Afghanistan.
Local Afghan officials had said earlier on Monday that a passenger place from Afghanistan's Ariana Airlines had crashed in the Taliban-held area of the eastern Ghazni province. However, Ariana Airlines told The Associated Press that none of its planes had crashed in Afghanistan.
The conflicting accounts could not immediately be reconciled. The number of people on board and their fate was not immediately known, nor was the cause of the crash.
Arif Noori, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the plane went down around 1:10 pm local time (8:40 am GMT) in Deh Yak district, some 130 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of the capital Kabul. He said the crash site is in territory controlled by the Taliban. Two provincial council members also confirmed the crash.
But the acting director for Ariana Airlines, Mirwais Mirzakwal, dismissed reports that one the company's aircraft had crashed. The state-owned airline also released a statement on its website saying all its aircraft were operational and safe.
The mountainous Ghazni province sits in the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains and is bitterly cold in winter. The Taliban currently control or hold sway over around half the country.
The last major commercial air crash in Afghanistan occurred in 2005, when 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 en route to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. All seven crew member were killed. The US National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that large military vehicles were inadequately secured and had shifted during flight, causing damage to the control systems that "rendered the airplane uncontrollable."


India puts 30,000 in lockdown after preacher dies of virus

A volunteer sprays disinfectant on a policeman at a street during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown in Amritsar on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 30 March 2020

India puts 30,000 in lockdown after preacher dies of virus

  • Sikh leader ignored order to self-isolate after 16-day trip to Europe, authorities say

NEW DELHI: More than 30,000 people have been quarantined in 20 villages in the northern Indian state of Punjab after coming into contact with a Sikh religious leader who died after being infected by the coronavirus, officials said on Sunday.

Baldev Singh, 70, returned to India on March 7 after attending religious events during a 16-day trip to Italy and Germany.
After his return, he was asked to go into self-isolation, but reportedly defied the orders and is believed to have died on March 18.
Vinay Bublani, deputy commissioner of Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district, told Arab News on Sunday that there was no explanation for Singh’s refusal to self-isolate.“
What I understand is that he was asymptomatic and did not show any symptoms of infection,” Bublani said.
Some media reports suggest that Singh continued to attend religious functions despite developing symptoms associated with the coronavirus.
Between March 10-12, he attended the Halla Mohallaa, in Punjab’s Anantpur Saheb district, which draws tens of thousands of people, and also visited individual houses to recite religious texts and scriptures afterwards.
Health authorities in Punjab said that the state has almost 40 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 23 of the victims reportedly infected after coming in contact with Singh.
Elsewhere in India, authorities said the number of infections is nearing 1,000 with 25 deaths reported.
The government is concentrating on virus hotspots in the country, including Punjab, following the latest developments in the state.
After his death on March 18, 19 of Singh’s close relatives tested positive for the illness, with four others reportedly infected.
“We tested hundreds of people and, later on, decided to quarantine the entire area consisting of 20 villages and with a population of more than 30,000 people.
No one isallowed to come out of their village,” Bublani said.
However, he warned that self-quarantine is proving difficult to enforce. “People don’t take it seriously. They have been defiant. That’s why the lockdown has been imposed,” he added.


• Between March 10-12, Baldev Singh attended the Halla Mohallaa, which draws tens of thousands of people.

• Health authorities in Punjab said that the state has almost 40 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 23 of the victims reportedly infected after coming in contact with Singh.

Singh’s death and his unrestricted movement have alarmed the state government, which has asked police to take “strict legal action against those violating home quarantine orders.”
Political analyst Maneesh Chibber told Arab News that authorities face an uphill task.“
In Punjab, you have many socio-religious organizations and sects, and they are powerful. They have strong political connections and cannot be held accountable for their excesses,” he said.
The state government has made it mandatory for anyone arriving from overseas in the past month to report to health officials.
On Tuesday, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that “an estimated 97,000 people have arrived in Punjab since early January, while more than 30,000 have been asked to self-quarantine.”
The government also launched an app named Cova to trace residents who had returned to Punjab but not registered their entry.
Apart from providing information on the disease, the app prompts users to inform authorities about their return from an overseas trip.“
We need to do our best to track all the suspected cases so that we can contain the spread of the virus,” Bublani said.
A senior state health official, who requested anonymity since he was not authorized to speak to the media, told Arab News on Sunday that “thermal screening at airports is not enough to identify positive patients.”
The state health department is also trying to trace 144 people who returned from abroad but provided false addresses to airport authorities.