Plane crashes in central Afghan province, officials say; state airline denies it's one of theirs

KABUL (REUTERS, AFP, BLOOMBERG) –  A plane crashed in Ghazni, central Afghanistan on Monday (Jan 27), three senior government officials said, but details remained unclear as authorities sought to locate the aircraft’s wreckage in the mountainous province, which is partly controlled by the Taliban. 

The three government officials said the plane was operated by Afghanistan’s state-owned airline Ariana Afghan Airlines, but its acting CEO Mirwais Mirzakwal denied those reports.

“There has been an airline crash but it does not belong to Ariana because the two flights managed by Ariana today from Herat to Kabul and Herat to Delhi are safe,” Mr Mirzakwal told Reuters. 

A senior official in Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office in Kabul said that a plane had crashed near Ghazni province and authorities were still seeking details.

Earlier, Arif Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor’s office in Ghazni city, said: “A Boeing plane belonging to the Ariana Afghan Airline, has crashed in the Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province around 1:10pm local time (4:40pm Singapore time).”

“The plane is on fire and the villagers are trying to put it out. We still don’t know if it is a military or commercial plane,” the spokesman said.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Afghanistan also denied reports that the plane was a commercial flight. 

“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 organisation.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said the group was checking on reports of the plane crash.

Crashes involving military flights, particularly helicopters, are common in Afghanistan where inclement weather and creaky aircraft are often pressed to their limits in the war-torn country where insurgents have been known to target helicopters.

The last civilian flight to crash was in May 2010, when an ageing Pamir Airways plane went down in bad weather during a scheduled flight to Kabul from the northern province of Kunduz.

It was carrying six crew and 38 passengers when it crashed into a mountainside 20 kilometres from Kabul.

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