By Idrees Ali and Abdul Qadir Sediqi
WASHINGTON/KABUL (Reuters) - The United States on Tuesday recovered the remains of two personnel from a U.S. military aircraft that crashed in Afghanistan, American and Afghan officials told Reuters.
On Monday, the U.S. military said an E-11A aircraft had crashed in the province of Ghazni, but disputed claims by the Taliban militant group that they had brought it down.
Earlier on Tuesday, Afghan forces and Taliban fighters clashed in a central region where the U.S. military plane crashed as the government tried to reach the wreckage site in a Taliban stronghold.
"U.S. forces recovered the remains of two personnel from the site where a U.S. Bombardier E-11A aircraft crashed in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan," a U.S. military statement said.
The statement said that the remains were "treated with dignity and respect by the local Afghan community."
The forces recovered what is believed to be the flight data recorder and the destroyed remnants of the plane.
"The cause of the crash remains under investigation, however there are no indications the crash was caused by enemy fire," the statement added.
A U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said multiple attempts had been made to recover the remains but they had been hampered by the terrain and weather.
The official said the aircraft had been carrying no other individuals apart from the two service members.
Ghazni provincial police chief, Khalid Wardak, told Reuters that two bodies were airlifted by U.S. forces from the crash site on Tuesday.
The incident came as the Taliban and the United States have been in talks to end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.
Trump has long called for an end to U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, which began with an American invasion triggered by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that al Qaeda launched from then-Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.
Negotiations between the two sides began last year in Doha but have been interrupted at least twice after Taliban attacks on U.S. military personnel in September and December.
Last week, another round of talks kicked off with U.S. Special Representative on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad meeting repeatedly with the Taliban’s chief negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, 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, he told Reuters, but 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.
The crashed jet, built by Bombardier Inc, is used to provide communication capabilities in remote locations.
(Additional reporting by Rumpam Jain, Phil Stewart and Gibran Peshimam; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Jonathan Oatis and Bernadette Baum)