Afghan military plane crashes in Uzbekistan; cause disputed

An Afghan military plane crashed in Uzbekistan last weekend and Uzbek authorities have released conflicting reports about the cause

MOSCOW – An Afghan military plane crashed in Uzbekistan last weekend and Uzbek authorities released conflicting reports on the cause on Monday. The wreckage came as dozens of Afghan military planes carrying hundreds of soldiers reportedly reached Uzbekistan, among the thousands who fled the country after the Taliban recaptured the Afghan capital, Kabul.

The plane crash in southeastern Uzbekistan, in the Surkhandarya region on the border with Afghanistan, was first reported by local media. Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Defense initially said it was studying videos and reports of the crash, then confirmed the plane had crashed, without elaborate.

Later Monday, Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported that it had been told by the Uzbek Defense Ministry that Uzbekistan’s air defense system had shot down the plane and “averted an attempt by an Afghan military aircraft to illegally cross Uzbekistan’s air border.” Two pilots, the agency said, were hospitalized in serious condition.

Within hours, the attorney general’s office in Uzbekistan issued a statement saying that an Afghan military plane had collided with an Uzbek plane that was being scrambled to make it to the airport in Termez, a town in Surkhandarya. escort.

The office later retracted that statement, also alleging that 22 warplanes and 24 military helicopters from Afghanistan carrying 585 soldiers “illegally crossed Uzbek airspace” over the weekend and were forced by Uzbek authorities to land in Termez.

The attorney general’s office later apologized for a “hasty” statement on messaging app Telegram, saying it was not based on “verified data from the relevant authorities.”

Associated Press was unable to immediately reconcile or independently verify all conflicting reports.

Reports of the plane crash in Uzbekistan emerged Monday as thousands of Afghans crowded into Kabul’s airport, rushed across the tarmac and pressed onto planes in desperate attempts to flee the country a day after the Taliban overthrew the country’s western-backed government. had overthrown. US troops fired warning shots as they struggled to manage the chaotic evacuation.

Caroline Tabler, communications director for Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, said the GOP lawmaker’s office was urgently working to support Afghan pilots fleeing from the Taliban to Uzbekistan. She appeared to confirm that at least some Afghan military personnel had reached Uzbekistan.

“We are working with an intermediary who has been in contact with the pilots,” she told the AP. “We haven’t heard from them since last night (Washington) time. We know that Uzbekistan has taken their cell phones. Our first concern is to ensure that Uzbekistan does not hand them over to the Taliban. We are frantically contacting the State Department about this matter and are trying to get them asylum and literally cannot get an answer.”

A plane carrying more than 100 Afghan soldiers landed in Tajikistan on Monday, the Tajik Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. Officials told Russia’s state news agency Tass that Tajikistan received an SOS signal and allowed a plane bound for Afghanistan to land at an airport in Khatlon province, which borders both Afghanistan and Uzbek’s Surkhandarya region.

On Sunday, Uzbekistan’s foreign ministry reported that 84 Afghan soldiers had crossed the border into Uzbekistan and asked for help. The group was detained by border guards and included three wounded soldiers who needed medical attention.

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Zeke Miller contributed to this report from Washington.

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