Four Killed After U.S.-Leased Plane Crashes in Afghanistan

A U.S.-leased plane carrying counternarcotics officials crashed into a nomad settlement Monday while trying to avoid a truck on a runway during landing, killing two people aboard and two young girls on the ground, authorities and relatives said.

At least 13 people were reported injured, including some Americans.

The Russian-made, twin-engine An-32 aircraft was landing at Bost airport in Lashkar Gah, capital of the southern province of Helmand, but overran the airstrip after trying to lift over a truck that drove across the runway, a Canadian military spokesman, Maj. Quentin Innis, said.

Two of the 16 people on the plane died, Innis said. Two Afghan women, whose homes were destroyed by the crash, said they each lost a young daughter.

"We were sitting, eating our lunch, when I heard a loud noise and then turned to see a big plane sliding along the ground from the airstrip before it smashed into our homes," said Lal Bibi, 40.

She said her 2-year-old daughter, Palwasha, was killed when the plane struck the mud brick room where she was sleeping.

Another woman, Janat Gul, said her 3-year-old daughter, Safaida, died when the plane's nose crushed their home.

Five other villagers were injured. Casualties could have been worse if the settlement's males had not left earlier to work picking opium poppies at a nearby farm, the women said.

Innis said eight people on the plane suffered minor injuries and were flown by military helicopters to a hospital run by the U.S.-led military coalition in the city of Kandahar, about 75 miles to the east.

Innis declined to specify the nationalities of the people on the plane. U.S. Embassy spokesman Lou Fintor in Kabul said several Americans were injured, but declined to say how many.

The plane, which seats about 20, was leased by the State Department and was carrying a team from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, Innis said. The bureau is helping Afghan authorities conduct opium eradication campaigns across southern Afghanistan.

Fintor said the plane left the Afghan capital, Kabul, early Monday and had made a stop in Kandahar before setting off for Lashkar Gah.

It was the first reported crash of a nonmilitary aircraft in Afghanistan since November 2005, when a Pakistani-owned plane carrying cargo for the coalition slammed into mountains near Kabul, killing at least eight people.

On Feb. 3, 2005, a plane on a domestic flight belonging to Kam Air, Afghanistan's only private airline, also crashed into mountains near Kabul due to bad weather, killing all 104 people on board.