Taliban says it shot down U.S. aircraft in Afghanistan

A US soldier walks at Bagram Air Field, on November 28, 2019 in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the downing of a “special American aircraft” flying over Afghanistan on what it described as an intelligence mission.

The crash happened on Monday in the Taliban-controlled Sado Khel area of the Deh Yak district in Ghazni province, the militant group’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said in a message via WhatsApp.

“A special American aircraft which was flying over Afghanistan for an intelligence mission was tactically shot down by the Taliban,” Mujahed said. “All on board including high-ranking CIA officers were killed.”

There have been wildly conflicting claims on the crash since the news broke hours earlier — first it was reported to have been a passenger plane en-route from Dubai, then a military flight and now a U.S. aircraft. There has been no confirmation so far from the U.S. military.

“U.S. Central Command is aware of the reports of a U.S. aircraft crash in Afghanistan,” said Major Beth Riordan, a U.S. Central Command spokeswoman. “We are currently monitoring the situation and will provide additional information when possible.”

Earlier on Monday, Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority provided some details.

“The plane was apparently dispatched for military operations and it took off from Afghanistan territory,” said Ghulam Masoom Massumi, the director of air traffic management at the authority, by phone. “The military plane was not a cargo plane.” Massumi added.

He gave no details of the size and make of plane or the number of people on board.

Conflicting Accounts

Earlier in the day, Afghanistan’s second Vice President, Sarwar Danish, had said that a passenger plane owned by the country’s national carrier, Ariana Afghan Airlines, crashed in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni province. However Ariana denied reports one of its planes was involved and said it was operating as normal.

No other details were immediately available.

The incident follows reports last week the U.S. and the Taliban were moving toward a peace deal that would see the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan and an end to the 18-year long conflict.

It’s the second time in recent months the two sides have appeared close to announcing an agreement. In September President Donald Trump abruptly called off talks in response to a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed an American soldier.

The militant group controls or contests half of the country, more territory than any time since they were toppled in 2001. The U.S. currently has 13,000 of the 22,673 foreign troops in Afghanistan, down from a peak of 100,000 in 2011.

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