An Iranian news agency has claimed a CIA chief who helped plan the assassination of general Qassem Soleimani was killed in a plane crash yesterday in Afghanistan.
The highly dubious report comes after a US official confirmed today that the remains of two American personnel had been recovered from the wreckage of the E-11A communications jet which crashed in the Dih Yak district.
The official added that there was no evidence it had been downed by enemy fire despite claims by the Taliban - amplified by Iranian media - that the jet had been shot down.
Reports by an Iranian news agency and Kremlin-linked news sites have claimed that among the dead was Michael D'Andrea, a CIA boss credited with hunting down Osama bin Laden, known as the 'Dark Prince' and 'Ayatollah Mike.'
The Pentagon yesterday denied that a Taliban shot down the E-11A aircraft in the Dih Yak district, saying the communications jet had crashed. A US official confirmed today that the remains of two American personnel had been recovered from the site
The Taliban said it was responsible for shooting down the aircraft, a Bombardier E-11A which is used by the US Air Force to carry out surveillance missions. The terror group further claimed they ambushed US and Afghan personnel arriving on the scene, however the US official today said the military were not met with resistance
Iranian media and Kremlin-linked news sites have claimed that among the dead was Michael D'Andrea, a CIA chief credited with hunting down Osama bin Laden known as the 'Dark Prince'
Iranian propaganda agency, Mehr News, reported today that D'Andrea, who played 'a pivotal role in many acts of terror, including the assassination of IRGC Quds Force commander Lieutenant General Qasem Soleimani,' was killed.
It cited the pro-Kremlin website Veterans Today, which quoted Russian intelligence sources claiming D'Andrea had been killed and vital intelligence aboard the jet seized.
It claimed that the jet was not a standard US communications plane, but D'Andrea's mobile command centre and was also carrying other high-ranking operatives.
D'Andrea's name began to crop up frequently across Farsi channels in the wake of the US drone strike which killed Soleimani in Baghdad earlier this month.
According to Iran's Tasnim agency - which has strong links to the IRGC - 'D'Andrea is the most prominent figure in the US CIA in the Middle East.'
Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, claimed yesterday that several high-ranking American officers were among the dead after the plane came down at 1.10pm local time.
He also claimed that Taliban forces had ambushed Afghan forces backed by U.S. military support sent to secure the crash site.
However, the US official speaking today said the American recovery teams met no Taliban resistance in reaching the crash site.
The official was speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an official announcement on the crash.
Monday's plane crash is not expected to derail U.S.-Taliban peace talks if the crash investigation determines, as expected, that it was not the result of hostile action.
Images from the scene showed what appeared to be burned paperwork from inside the aircraft, along with the crest of US Air Combat Command
Monday's plane crash is not expected to derail U.S.-Taliban peace talks if the crash investigation determines, as expected, that it was not the result of hostile action
It comes after footage was posted online by a Taliban-affiliated journalist showed wreckage of the plane with a US Air Force symbol on the side.
Footage taken by journalist Tariq Ghazniwal shows the burning remains of a jet lying in the snow as several people stand around filming.
Security forces were sent to the site immediately after receiving a report of the crash, but were ambushed by Taliban fighters, Ghazni provincial police chief Khalid Wardak told Reuters.
The jet appeared to be one of four modified civilian Bombardier aircraft used by the USAF to link together communication equipment in order to support troops on the ground (file)
Taliban spokesman Mujahid said Afghan forces (on the scene yesterday) backed by U.S. military support had tried to capture the area around the crashed aircraft and clashed with fighters of the Islamist militant group. A US official denied that claim today
The plane came down in the Dih Yak region, around 80 miles south of Kabul, which is controlled by the Taliban
'As per our information, there are four bodies and two onboard were alive and they are missing,' Wardak said, adding that the forces subsequently received an order to retreat and airborne action is to be taken instead.
Taliban spokesman Mujahid said Afghan forces backed by U.S. military support had tried to capture the area around the crashed aircraft and clashed with fighters of the Islamist militant group.
The attempt was repelled, however, he told Reuters, but added that the Taliban would allow a rescue team access to recover bodies from the crash site.
'Taliban fighters on the ground counted six bodies at the site of the U.S. airplane crash,' he said, adding that while there could have been more, the militant group could not be certain, as fire had reduced everything to ashes.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, U.S. officials said yesterday the plane was carrying fewer than five when it crashed, with one official saying initial information showed there were at least two.
The site has not been visited by U.S. officials or any other members of the international force in Afghanistan, but the Taliban claim to have brought down the plane is misleading, a U.S. defence official told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that a preliminary probe showed there was a mechanical error.
The crashed aircraft, built by Bombardier Inc, is used to provide communication capabilities in remote locations.