UPDATE: 5:00 a.m. EDT -- The U.S. military on Friday denied, with “high confidence,” the Taliban’s claims of having shot down an American C-130 cargo plane in eastern Afghanistan.
“It does not appear at this time that enemy fire was involved in the aircraft crash,” Maj. Tony Wickman of the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing at Bagram military base, reportedly said, refuting claims made earlier by a Taliban spokesman. “We have first responders on scene working at the crash site doing recovery operations. An investigation is under way to determine the cause of the accident.”
Eleven people, including six U.S. soldiers, were killed in the incident, which occurred around midnight, local time, in Jalalabad.
The Taliban on Friday claimed responsibility for an American C-130 military transport plane crash at the Jalalabad Airport in eastern Afghanistan that killed at least 11 people, including six U.S. soldiers. NATO, however, has not confirmed the cause of the crash and the Taliban is known for making exaggerated battlefield claims.
The C-130 is a four-propeller transport aircraft, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, and is used to transport troops and military equipment in and around war zones.
“Our mujahideen have shot down a four-engine U.S. aircraft in Jalalabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid reportedly said. “Based on credible information 15 invading forces and a number of puppet troops were killed.”
The crash occurred around midnight, local time, (2:30 p.m. EDT) at Jalalabad -- a site of frequent conflagrations near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan. U.S. Army Colonel Brian Tribus told Agence France-Presse that in addition to the six soldiers, five civilian contractors working for the NATO-led training mission “Resolute Support” were among those killed.
Approximately 10,000 U.S. troops are still stationed in Afghanistan, after initial plans for a gradual drawdown were changed earlier this year. U.S. President Barack Obama has promised to leave only a small force in the country, primarily to train and assist Afghan government forces, by the end of next year.
The plane crash comes at a time when Afghan government forces and Taliban militants are engaged in clashes near the strategic northern city of Kunduz. On Thursday, the Ashraf Ghani-led government said its troops had successfully evicted the militants from the city. However, according to a report by Al Jazeera, the group has since captured at least one district in each of the three northern provinces -- Badakshan, Baghlan and Takhar.