US Air Force plane crashes in Taliban held-territory in Afghanistan

Ben Farmer
Pictures shared by Taliban linked social media accounts showed wreckage of an E11 aircraft on a snowy plain.

An American military communications plane crashed in Afghanistan, south west of the capital Kabul.

A United States military spokesman confirmed the loss the of the E-11A communications plane in Ghazni province and said there was no indication the jet had been shot down.

Afghan officials had early reported the loss of a plane in the Taliban-held province, but had mistakenly reported the aircraft was a civilian passenger jet belonging to the national carrier, Ariana.

Pictures share by Taliban-linked social media accounts instead showed wreckage from a Bombardier E11 BACN emblazoned with US Air Force insignia. The aircraft is known to operate from nearby Kandahar air field in southern Afghanistan and helps boost communications among troops on the ground.

A statement from US forces in Afghanistan said: "A US Bombardier E-11A crashed in Ghazni province, Afghanistan. While the cause of the crash is under investigation, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire."

There was no official indication of casualties, but Taliban reports said two badly burned bodies had been found in the wreckage and had  been handed over to local villagers.

Afghan officials had at first reported the crashed plane belonged to the national carrier, Ariana.

"At around 1:10 pm (0840 GMT) a plane crashed in Deh Yak district of Ghazni province. The plane is on fire and the villagers are trying to put it out. We still don't know if it is a military or commercial plane," Aref Noori, Ghazni's governor's spokesman, told AFP.

The Taliban have staged attacks on Ghazni in the past Credit: REUTERS/Mustafa Andaleb

Large swathes of the rural areas in Ghazni province are controlled or under the influence of Taliban militants making access to the area difficult for officials.

Social media was rife with suggestions that the plane was from the state-owned Ariana Afghan Airlines - however the company said the rumours were "not true".

"All the flights of Ariana Afghan Airlines have been completed normally," a statement on the carrier's verified Facebook page read.

Crashes involving military flights, particularly helicopters, are common in Afghanistan where inclement weather and creaky aircraft are often pressed to their limits in the war-torn country where insurgents have been known to target helicopters.

The last civilian flight to crash was in May 2010, when an ageing Pamir Airways plane went down in bad weather during a scheduled flight to Kabul from the northern province of Kunduz.

It was carrying six crew and 38 passengers when it crashed into a mountainside 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Kabul.