Bodies of the crew members who were killed in a U.S. military plane crash in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province were recovered, according to Afghan officials.
Ghazni police chief Khaled Wardak told Radio Free Europe Tuesday that American military helicopters landed at the crash site while Afghan security forces reinforced them.
“Following the removal of the bodies, our forces have moved back to their bases. We don’t know where the foreigners have taken the bodies,” Wardak told the broadcaster. Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, the head of the provincial council in Ghazni, confirmed that U.S. officials were able to retrieve at least two bodies.
It came about a day after Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, confirmed a surveillance plane went down.
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.
— USFOR-A Spokesman Col Sonny Leggett (@USFOR_A) January 27, 2020
“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,” he said in a statement. However, he stipulated that Taliban claims about other planes crashing were false.
Photos that were obtained by The Associated Press and Reuters show a downed plane with what appears to be U.S. Air Force markings.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters that the terrorist organization would allow a team to recover the bodies.
“Taliban fighters on the ground counted six bodies at the site of the U.S. airplane crash,” he said.
The Bombardier E-11A was operated by the U.S. Air Force and was used as an electronic surveillance plane.
Ariana Afghan Airlines, the country’s state-owned airline company, issued a statement and strongly denied earlier reports that one of its planes crashed. “All of Ariana Afghan flights are operating normally,” the airline said on social media.
Mirwais Mirzakwal, the head of Ariana, told Reuters, “It does not belong to Ariana because the two flights managed by Ariana today from Herat to Kabul and Herat to Delhi are safe.”
U.S. Central Command has not responded to a request for comment on the plane crash.
More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. And 2019 was one of the deadliest for the United States in recent times, with 23 American troops killed, even as Washington engaged in peace talks with the Taliban.