The US military has confirmed that one of its aircraft crashed in eastern Afghanistan but said there was “no indication the crash was caused by enemy fire”. A Taliban spokesman had claimed that the group shot the plane down over territory they control near Ghazni city.
The US Bombardier E-11A went down early on Monday afternoon and was initially mistaken by Afghan authorities for a passenger jet. But footage, purportedly from the wreckage site, soon emerged, showing the US air force insignia on a charred fuselage.
“While the cause of crash is under investigation, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire,” a spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan . “Taliban claims that additional aircraft have crashed are false.”
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, said in a statement posted online: “An American invader aircraft has been shot down. Lots of officers have been killed.” He said high-ranking CIA officers had been onboard the plane, but the claim could not be independently verified.
In separate comments, Mujahid told the Guardian the purported shooting down of the plane had “no impact” on the negotiations over the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. “No agreement has been reached yet and Americans are continuing their attacks too.”
Tariq Ghazniwal, a local journalist, said he saw two bodies, but others had counted a total of five.
The E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node has been described by the US air force as “wifi in the sky”, a roving communications satellite to support missions in remote areas without existing infrastructure.
The Taliban have occasionally been reported to have access to anti-aircraft weapons, including cases where of the kind supplied to the rebels by the CIA during the 1980s Russian occupation.
In 2007, Taliban fighters are thought to have used a shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missile , killing all on board.