By YAROSLAV TROFIMOV and DION NISSENBAUM
KABUL—An American cargo plane crashed shortly after takeoff Monday at the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan, with all seven crew members killed in the accident, an official in the U.S.-led coalition said.
The coalition dismissed the Taliban’s claim that it had shot down the aircraft, which was operated by National Air Cargo, a subsidiary of Florida-based National Airlines.
The plane crashed shortly after takeoff at the Bagram Air Field north of Kabul, said coalition spokesman Italian Army Capt. Luca Carniel said. There were no reports of enemy activity at the time of the incident, Capt. Carniel said.
The Taliban announced the beginning of their spring fighting season over the weekend. The insurgents have routinely claimed responsibility for crashes of planes and helicopters that were brought down by mechanical problems and other non-battle related issues.
Recovery crews were at the site of the incident, within the perimeter of the base.
National Airlines president Glen Joerger, a retired U.S. Air Force officer, said he couldn’t discuss the incident’s details until he finishes notifying the families of those killed in the crash. The company identified on its website the crashed aircraft under its registration number, N949CA, which according to the Federal Aviation Administration records belongs to a Boeing BA -0.53% 747-428.
Bagram, the logistics hub of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, is served by several companies that use their own aircraft to fly food, mail, military supplies and other gear to the troops.
National Air Cargo is one of more than a dozen companies that currently transport supplies for the military under a five-year, $700 million Defense Department contract, according to military award notices.
Last summer, the company won part of a separate, four-year $3 billion dollar Pentagon contract to fly military supplies in and out of Afghanistan and other countries in the region for U.S. Central Command.
National Air Cargo has received more than $400 million from the U.S. government for its work since 2007, according to USASpending.gov, a federal website that tracks contracting.
In 2008, National Air Cargo agreed to pay $28 million in fines to settle an overbilling and fraud dispute with the U.S. Air Force, which temporarily barred the company and its president from doing business with the military. The company agreed to a plea deal with federal prosecutors in which it pleaded guilty to one count of making a false statement.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement emailed to reporters, said that the insurgents had downed the plane and killed its crew and passengers.
This is the second fatal plane crash in Afghanistan in recent days. On Saturday, four U.S. airmen died when their MC-12 surveillance and reconnaissance plane crashed in the south of the country. While there have been several helicopter crashes in Afghanistan in recent months, often because of poor weather, crashes for fixed-wing aircraft are relatively rare.