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."

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Parents of Pakistan students in China coronavirus center vent anger at ministers

Updated 19 February 2020

Parents of Pakistan students in China coronavirus center vent anger at ministers

  • Health minister Mirza said he would convey the parents’ anger at a cabinet meeting on Thursday
  • Pakistan has said its embassy in Beijing is supporting students and a two-person team traveled to Wuhan this week to meet students and gather more information about their situation

ISLAMABAD: Angry parents of Pakistani students stuck in the locked down province at the center of China’s coronavirus outbreak confronted government ministers at a meeting on Wednesday, demanding their children are evacuated.
Pakistan has so far ruled out bringing home the more than 1,000 students in Hubei province and its capital Wuhan, where three-quarters of the more than 2,000 deaths from the outbreak of the flu-like virus have been recorded.
Health Minister Zafar Mirza and Minister for Overseas Citizens Zulfiqar Bukhari briefed parents for the first time on Wednesday, telling them the students’ welfare was better off in China and Pakistan did not have adequate facilities to quarantine them if they returned.
But hundreds interrupted the briefing, with some seizing microphones to say they did not want to listen to officials until their children were returned and dozens flooding the stage to crowd around the ministers.
“Bring our kids back, they have been in lockdown for 25 days...they are not getting any support...from you,” one family member who took the microphone said.
Health minister Mirza said he would convey the parents’ anger at a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Pakistan has said its embassy in Beijing is supporting students and a two-person team traveled to Wuhan this week to meet students and gather more information about their situation.
The overseas citizens minister and a spokesman for the health minister did not immediately respond to requests for further comment.
More than 400 parents traveled from around the country to attend the meeting at a school in Islamabad and around 100 protested with placards outside after the meeting, blocking a nearby road. Protests in the larger cities of Lahore and Karachi were held last week.
Many students and their families have expressed growing frustration as the death toll in China mounts, pointing to other countries, including neighboring India and Bangladesh, evacuating their citizens.
Muhammad Wasim Akram, whose wife is a fourth year medical student in the city of Shiyan in Hubei, said he had traveled five hours to the meeting but was left disappointed.
“I traveled from Lahore to attend this nonsense. I feel nothing (has been done)...shame on the government,” he told Reuters, adding students’ mental health was eroding after being stuck inside for weeks, while their access to food and bottled water was limited.