Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Two US service members' bodies recovered from crashed plane in Afghanistan

On Monday, an E-11A aircraft crashed in Taliban-controlled mountainous region of Ghazni

 A view of the wreckage of a US Air Force E-11A plane a day after it was crashed in Deh Yak district of Ghazni, Afghanistan, 28 January 2020.  EPA/STR
 A view of the wreckage of a US Air Force E-11A plane a day after it was crashed in Deh Yak district of Ghazni, Afghanistan, 28 January 2020.  EPA/STR

The US on Tuesday recovered the remains of two people from an American military aircraft that crashed in Afghanistan, and was in the process of confirming their identities.

On Monday, the US military said an E-11A aircraft had crashed in the Taliban-controlled mountainous region of Ghazni, but rejected claims by the militant group that they shot it down.

Earlier on Tuesday, Afghan troops and Taliban fighters clashed in the central region where the US plane crashed as the government tried to reach the site, about 130 kilometres from Kabul.

The harsh terrain and bad weather had delayed several attempts to recover the remains, a US defence official told Reuters.

The official said the retrieved bodies were believed to be of two service members. Another official said the two were the only people on the aircraft. The Pentagon declined to comment.

Pending positive identification and in accordance with US Department of Defence policy, the names of the service members are being withheld until 24 hours after their next of kin are notified.

US forces also recovered what is assessed to be the aircraft flight data recorder, before destroying other remnants of the aircraft.

Ghazni provincial police chief Khalid Wardak said the two bodies were flown by US forces from the crash site on Tuesday. US officials said the plane was carrying fewer than five people when it crashed.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said Afghan forces backed by US military had tried to capture the area around the crashed aircraft and clashed with fighters of the militant group.

The attempt was repelled, Mr Mujahid said, but the Taliban would allow a rescue team access to recover bodies.

“Taliban fighters on the ground counted six bodies at the site of the US airplane crash,” he said.

Mr Mujahid said there could have been more but fire had reduced the everything to ashes.

The Taliban and the US have been in talks to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

US President Donald Trump has long called for an end to US involvement in Afghanistan, which began with an American invasion triggered by the September 11, 2001, attacks that Al Qaeda launched from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

This month, the Taliban hinted at being amenable to a limited ceasefire deal with the US, but stopped short of making an offer.

The Taliban spokesman in Qatar, where the group has an office, tweeted on January 17 that progress had been made and a deal would be signed "very soon".

Updated: January 29, 2020 04:43 AM

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