The Taliban has claimed a “passenger plane” that crashed in Afghanistan was actually a US Air Force jet it deliberately shot down.

The jet came down in the country’s eastern Ghazni province, which is controlled by the military organisation, this afternoon.

Local officials initially reported the jet to be a Boeing 737-400 plane that belonged to Ariana Airlines, carrying 83 passengers.

But the state-owned carrier quickly moved to deny the claims as new pictures emerged from the crash site.

The images showed the wreckage of the plane with the engine bearing a US Air Forces logo, prompting US military officials to investigate.

But the Taliban has now issued a statement to claim that the aircraft was, as the pictures indicate, a US Air Force Bombardier E-11A jet that it shot down.

In a statement a Taliban source said the plane was carrying high ranking Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers.

It added that everyone died on board.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed the crash killed "lots" of US service members, although the militant group often exaggerates casualty figures.

The US military is said to use the same type of plane the crashed for electronic surveillance over Afghanistan.

The crash site was about 10km (6.2 miles) from a US military base.

The plane had came down in the mountainous Deh Yak district at around 1.15pm local time on Monday.

Initial pictures showed thick black smoke billowing into the air from the crash site as the plane burst into flames after the crash.

It was initially feared 83 people were on board the plane when it was reported to be a passenger jet belonging to Ariana Airlines.

Hours later it was still unknown who owned the jet or where it was flying to or from, with details remaining scarce until the Taliban’s statement.

The US Air Force has yet to comment.

The location of the crash in Ghazni – being under control of the Taliban – made it difficult for Afghan authorities to reach the site earlier.

Afghan soldiers and air crash investigators were attempting to access the scene earlier amid security issues including roadside bombs.

A video later emerged of the aftermath of the crash, showing close ups of the smouldering wreckage surrounded by Taliban officials.

Reports had described a "deafening noise" when the jet hit the ground.

Ariana, which was first claimed to be the jet involved in the crash, is the largest airline of Afghanistan and serves as the country's national carrier.

Denying reports it was one of its own planes, the airline's acting CEO Mirwais Mirzakwal said: "There has been an airline crash but it does not belong to Ariana because the two flights managed by Ariana today from Herat to Kabul and Herat to Delhi are safe."

The Ghanzi governor, Wahidullah Kalimzai, later said the plane belonged to a foreign company which could no be identified as it was completely burned.

He also told local media that the bodies of two pilots had been recovered.

Ghazni MP Arif Rahmani added that 15 people were on board.
Source: Daily Star
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