'An aircraft of American occupiers has crashed in Ghazni province,' Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a Pashto-language statement
GHAZNI, Afghanistan: The Taliban claimed a US forces aircraft crashed in eastern Afghanistan on Monday hours after a plane went down into an area controlled largely by the insurgents.
The militants claim comes as confusion continued to surround the incident, with Afghan officials and airliners denying that any of their aircraft are missing while Nato have yet to officially comment on the crash. Local media, however, reported that 83 people were on board the plane when it went down.
"An aircraft of American occupiers has crashed in Ghazni province," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a Pashto-language statement, adding that all the crew members onboard had been killed.
Confusion also clouded the Taliban statement, however, with one version saying the plane crashed while another version said the insurgents brought down the craft. Large swathes of rural areas in Ghazni province are controlled or under the influence of Taliban militants, making access difficult for officials.
But ministry of defence spokesman Rohullah Ahmadzai said that the plane did not belong to Afghan forces or the country’s intelligence agency. The ministry’s statement comes hours after reports on social media were rife with suggestions that the plane was from 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.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Afghanistan also denied reports that the plane was a commercial flight. "According to our information from the Control Tower and Traffic Regulatory Authority, no commercial airline crash has been recorded. And Ariana Afghan Airlines have reassured us that all their planes are accounted for," said the organisation.
Footage published by a Taliban-affiliated account showed a people speaking Pashto walking around a crashed plane that looked similar to a craft used by US forces in Afghanistan for communications purposes.
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 -- and 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.