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US recovers 2 bodies from Air Force plane crash in Afghanistan: reports

A 430th Expeditionary Electronic Combat Squadron E-11A aircraft outfitted with a Battlefield Airborne Communications Node sits on the runway at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, April 4, 2019. The 430th EECS is the only unit that operates these aircraft with the BACN payload. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Anna-Marie Wyant)
January 28, 2020

The U.S. has recovered the bodies of two crew members on Tuesday from the U.S. Air Force E-11 plane that crashed in Taliban-controlled territory in Afghanistan on Monday.

An anonymous U.S. defense official told Stars and Stripes on Tuesday morning that two remains were recovered from the wreckage overnight.

“U.S. officials told [CBS News’ David] Martin the pilot of the Bombardier E-11A declared an in-flight emergency shortly before the crash,” CBS News reported on Tuesday.

Afghan officials were attempting to reach the wreckage where it crashed in Ghazni, a Taliban-controlled province south of Kabul. Ghazni Police Chief Mohammad Khalid Wardak said, “We have sent forces to take control of the site where the plane crashed,” according to Stars and Stripes.

Afghan forces clashed with Taliban forces overnight as they attempted to reach the crashed aircraft. U.S. helicopters then landed to retrieve the remains and Afghan forces left the area, Wardak told AFP.

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The Taliban had claimed it “brought down” the plane, a claim that the Pentagon has rejected.

U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett had confirmed the crash in a statement to American Military News on Monday afternoon. “A U.S. Bombardier E-11A crashed today in Ghazni province, Afghanistan.  While the cause of crash is under investigation, there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire.  We will provide additional information as it becomes available.  Taliban claims that additional aircraft have crashed are false,” Leggett said.

Four-star Air Force Gen. David Goldfein also confirmed the crash while at a Center for a New American Security event on Monday. “It appears we have lost an aircraft. We don’t know the status of the crew,” he said at the time, according to Military.com.

Goldfein confirmed that the plane was an E-11, but could not say whether or not the crash was the result of enemy fire. He added that the incident is under investigation.

Afghanistan government spokesperson Arif Noori confirmed the plane was flying between Kandahar province and Kabul when it went down in the Taliban-controlled Ghazni province south of Kabul, adding that two bodies were found in the wreckage, CBS News reported.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said a plane belonging to the U.S. Air Force had crashed and killed “lots” of U.S. troops. Mujahid added that the Taliban was responsible for shooting down the aircraft.

“The plane, which was on an intelligence mission, was brought down in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province,” Mujahid said, as reported by Reuters.

Local Afghanistan journalist Tariq Ghazniwal posted a video purportedly of the crash scene with an active fire burning in the plane’s wreckage, though the video cannot be verified for authenticity.

Other unconfirmed photos and video posted to social media appeared to show the burned wreckage of a U.S. Air Force E-11 bearing the U.S. Air Force insignia on its tail, though such posts could not be verified for authenticity.

Additional photos and videos from Iran’s Fars News Agency also showed the wreckage of a U.S. Air Force plane appearing to be an E-11, but the footage has not been verified.

Afghanistan officials first said that the crash involved an Ariana Airlines passenger plane, however, the airline rejected those claims, saying that none of its aircraft had crashed. Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority also said it had not received any reports of a passenger jet crash.