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Taliban fire at possible U.S. spy drone

The Taliban said this high-flying plane did not belong to the opposition Northern Alliance.
The Taliban said this high-flying plane did not belong to the opposition Northern Alliance.  


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Afghanistan's ruling Taliban say they fired at a U.S. aircraft over Kabul on Saturday, but did not hit the aircraft.

The Taliban's Defense Ministry denied accounts that it had launched a missile at the plane as well, though witnesses described what appeared to be a missile launch.

The Taliban Foreign Ministry said the aircraft was not one of theirs nor from the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, since the alliance does not have a strip to launch that kind of aircraft.

Taliban officials said gunners at three anti-aircraft positions around Kabul opened fire on the aircraft. The plane was clearly visible circling over the Afghan capital, but was not attacking, the foreign ministry said.

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CNN's Kathleen Koch reports on alleged spotting of a U.S. spy plane over Afghanistan (October 6)

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Later in the day, Taliban officials said three aircraft were spotted flying over the western Afghan city of Herat. They said they believe the planes were part of a U.S. reconnaissance mission.

There was no immediate comment from the Pentagon, and the White House declined to comment on the report. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark, now a CNN military analyst, said it was likely the aircraft was an unmanned U.S. observation plane.

"I think there are many unmanned aerial vehicles already over that region," said Clark, a former NATO supreme commander. "I think this just happens to be one that for whatever reason was visible."

The most common type of observation "drone" is the RQ-1A Predator aircraft. The $3.2 million pilotless plane normally operates at 25,000 feet and is capable of flying more than 40 hours.

The Taliban shot down another reconnaissance drone, which U.S. sources said was gathering information for the CIA, on September 22. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said their forces used captured Soviet anti-aircraft guns to bring down the plane.

Surveillance drones were used frequently by peacekeeping troops in Bosnia and during the 1999 Kosovo conflict, Clark said, and the fact that one appears to have been fired upon is "not such a big deal."

"It's more or less anticipated," he said. "That's why they're unmanned."

--CNN Correspondents Tom Mintier and Nic Robertson contributed to this report



 
 
 
 



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