Plane Crash in Afghanistan Near Taliban Territory Raises Questions as State-owned Airline Denies Operating Flight

A plane has crashed in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan amid conflicting reports over who was the owner of the aircraft.

Senior Afghan government officials initially said an aircraft from the state-owned carrier Ariana Afghan Airlines had crashed in the central Ghazni province around 1:10 pm local time on Monday, Al Jazeera reported.

The plane came down in the Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district.

Ariana, which has a small fleet of passenger jets, denied it was one of their planes. Its acting CEO Mirwais Mirzakwal told Reuters: "The two flights managed by Ariana today from Herat to Kabul and Herat to Delhi are safe."

A Facebook account, apparently belonging to the airline and cited by CNBC, also said its plane was not involved in the crash.

Afghanistan's Civil Aviation Authority said that it had received no reports of a civilian airliner crashing, which raises the possibility that it may have been a military or cargo plane, Straits Times reported.

"According to our information from the control tower and traffic regulatory authority, no commercial airline crash has been recorded. And Ariana Afghan Airlines have reassured us that all their planes are accounted for," said the organization.

🔴#BREAKING Ariana airlines passenger plane crash in the Deh Yak district of #Ghazni province. The #Taliban are already according to several sources on the crash site. #Afghanistan
Via: @bsarwary

— StrategicNews (@StrategicNews2) January 27, 2020

U.S. Army Major Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, told Associated Press that it is unclear whose aircraft crashed. The U.S. military is investigating.

Meanwhile, provincial government spokesman Arif Noori told CBS News the plane appeared to have been flying between the southern city of Kandahar and the capital Kabul.

Noori said the bodies of two pilots were found at the crash site and that the plane was destroyed, but he did not refer to any other casualties.

"There is no exact information on casualties and name of the airline," Ghazni provincial governor Wahidullah Kaleemzai told private broadcaster TOLOnews, Reuters reported.

Afghan special forces will be sent to the crash site. Noori told CBS the site would be difficult to access because the plane came down in Taliban-held territory.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the BBC that his group had found the aircraft. There is no further word yet on other casualties.

In 2013, all seven crew members on board an American Boeing 747 cargo jet were killed when it crashed shortly after takeoff from Bagram airbase north of Kabul en route to Dubai.

In 2005, a Kam Air passenger plane flying to Kabul from Herat crashed into the mountains as it tried to land when it was snowing, killing all 104 people on board.

Associated Press reported that the country's aviation industry is still a nascent one and after the overthrow of the Taliban, smaller private airlines have emerged.

Ghazni Province in Afghanistan
This illustrative image shows Jaghatu District of Ghazni Province in Afghanistan. The province was where a plane crashed on January 27, and there were conflicting reports as to who owned it. ZAKERIA HASHIMI/Getty Images