US plane crashes with soldiers, al-Qaeda men onboard

A US military plane crashed late Wednesday evening in the Paktia province of eastern Afghanistan carrying around ten soldiers and al-Qaeda members near Gardez.

A source in Miran Shah, North Waziristan Agency headquarter and a border town of Pakistan along the eastern Afghan border, told PRAVDA.Ru over phone that the plane was carrying not only US troops but also was laden with the recent arms cache in the eastern Afghanistan along with various tribesmen over suspicion of being al-Qaeda and Taliban members for further interrogation either to Ghazni or Kandahar. The source quoting officials in Khost and Gardez said that the plane crashed just a few kilometers from the airstrip in Gardez after its takeoff on Wednesday.

The source did not rule out the possibility of hostile fire as the area, where the incident occurred, is known for feuding tribesmen and forces of Badsha Khan Zadran. As even in the past they have used heavy arms against the Gardez administration.

The source ruled out the possibility of any survivals saying that it was not a car but a plane flying at a high altitude.

The eastern Afghanistan had been the strong bastion of the Taliban and al-Qaeda men for its mountainous terrain giving refuge to them and the US-led coalition troops were focusing more on it then any other part of Afghanistan to flush out the Taliban and al-Qaeda remnants.

The source claimed that the coalition troops in the eastern Afghanistan had arrested dozens of people over the suspicion of being Taliban or al-Qaeda members. Even a man from the Pakistani tribal area of the North Waziristan belonging to the Madakhel tribe was arrested on June 6 when he left his home to buy some edibles from the Lwara-Mandi area where both the Pakistani paramilitary force and the coalition troops are on vigil.

Taib son of Haji Daraz was stopped by the coalition troops and asked some question after which he was arrested on the pretext of fluently speaking English and Arabic languages. People of the area say that he had spent many years in the United Arab Emirates and had returned to his native village recently.

The source also claimed that those arrested were being airlifted to either Ghazni or Kandahar for further investigation and met the accident but their faith is still mysterious.

Wire news agencies report that US spokesman Roger King said at Bagram air base on Thursday that a US military plane carrying special forces crashed and caught fire after taking off from an airstrip in Afghanistan, killing three Americans. Seven others escaped with minor injuries.

The crash on Wednesday - the deadliest in the Afghan campaign since seven Marines were killed in January - did not appear to have been caused by hostile fire, King said.

A quick reaction force secured the crash site in a hilly region southwest of the town of Gardez as officials gathered the remains of the dead servicemen, King said.

Two of the dead were Air Force personnel; the third was an Army special forces soldier. The seven others on board - five airmen and two Army troops - suffered minor injuries ranging from a broken leg to cuts and bruises. They were taken to a US base at Kandahar for treatment. Security was tighter than usual in Kandahar, where a large number of helicopters buzzed about. A military source said four of the injured were treated and released there, then returned to duty. The Air Force MC-130H crashed and caught fire about three miles from the airstrip where it took off near the Bande Sardeh Dam at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, King said.

The MC-130H, nicknamed the Combat Talon, is a version of the propeller-driven C-130 cargo plane outfitted for special forces missions such as refuelling helicopters and taking commandos into hostile territory. The $155 million, four-engine plane is designed to take off and land on short, unpaved runways and can carry up to 77 troops. An Air Force team was flying in from the United States to investigate the crash, King said.

The aircraft was taking off from a field airstrip used to resupply special forces operating in the area and was bringing the three Army soldiers back to Kandahar base, King said. The area around the crash had seen "sporadic" al-Qaeda and Taliban activity in the past, but no fighters had been encountered there recently, King said.

Safiullah Gul PRAVDA.Ru Pakistan

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