Taleban claims downing of US military plane

The Taleban's success in Kunduz marked a blow for Afghanistan's Nato-trained forces (left), who have largely been fighting on their own since December.
The Taleban's success in Kunduz marked a blow for Afghanistan's Nato-trained forces (left), who have largely been fighting on their own since December.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Nato says cause of crash that left 6 US soldiers and 5 civilians dead yet to be confirmed

JALALABAD (Afghanistan) • The Taleban claimed to have shot down a US military transport plane in eastern Afghanistan in a crash that killed 11 people, as the battle for Kunduz raged.

The Taleban's stunning success in Kunduz, their biggest tactical success since 2001, marked a blow for Afghanistan's Nato-trained forces, who have largely been fighting on their own since December.

Nato has not yet confirmed the cause of yesterday's crash. US Army Colonel Brian Tribus said the crash, which occurred yesterday at about midnight local time, left six US soldiers and five civilian contractors dead.

Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Twitter: "Our mujahideen have shot down a four-engine US aircraft in Jalalabad."

The Taleban claim came as Amnesty International condemned the insurgents' "reign of terror" in Kunduz, which fell to the militants five days ago in a lightning strike.

A limited picture has emerged of conditions in the city. Residents said fierce gun battles were still echoing in Kunduz late on Thursday, and the streets were littered with bodies and charred vehicles.

Journalists were invited to travel with Afghan troops into Kunduz on Thursday, but were told later they had to return to Kabul.

Amnesty International cited civilian testimonies of mass murder, gang rapes and house-to-house searches by militant death squads.

The report claimed militants had a "hit list" and were using young boys to help conduct houseto-house searches to track down their targets, especially women.

Soldiers came under attacks from insurgents wearing Afghan security uniforms, many of whom took up positions inside residential homes.

So far, at least 49 bodies and more than 370 wounded people have been taken to city hospitals, according to health officials. The wounded included 64 children, medical charity Doctors Without Borders said.

Jalalabad is situated on a key route from the Pakistani border region - where many militants are based - to Kabul, and has been the scene of repeated attacks.

The plane which crashed is a C-130 Hercules - a cargo plane used by the military to ship troops and heavy gear, and is widely used by the US military in hostile areas.

The fall of Kunduz showcased the stubborn insurgency's potential to expand beyond its rural strongholds in the south of the country.

Concern is now mounting that the Taleban's success in Kunduz, even if temporary, was merely the opening gambit in a new, bolder strategy.

Analysts also saw Kunduz as a boost for new Taleban chief Mullah Mansour, whose recent appointment has been stymied by in-fighting, and whose organisation has recently been challenged by factions loyal to the Islamic State group.

The renewed energy of the Taleban offensive has also undermined support for President Ashraf Ghani, who has just marked a year in office.

It also raised questions about Washington's plan to withdraw most US troops from Afghanistan next year.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'Taleban claims downing of US military plane'. Print Edition | Subscribe