An American unmanned aircraft crashed in north-west Pakistan’s tribal district near the Afghan border late Saturday, officials said.
The aircraft came down in the mountainous Machikhel area about 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan region, which is frequently targeted by drone strikes against Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, military and security officials said.
“A US drone crashed, apparently due to some technical fault,” a military official in the north-western city of Peshawar told AFP.
Security officials in the region confirmed the crash saying it fell in the mountains. The crash site has been surrounded by militants, one security official said, refusing to confirm claims by some Taliban that the aircraft was shot down by insurgents.
Taliban militants led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur said they had collected wreckage of the destroyed aircraft and would provide its pictures to the media. “The drone today in Machikhel was flying at low altitude and our fighters fired at and shot it down,” a local commander of the Taliban said. “We have trained people for such type of job.”
The local Taliban commander said his men had been collecting the wreckage when the Pakistani army showed up and chased them off. “We got hold of half of the wreckage and were looking for the remaining parts when the Pakistan army troops arrived there and then we decided to leave. The troops fired heavy search lights and are looking for wreckage of the drone,” he said.
Around 400 Pakistani soldiers and dozens of political administration officials in North Waziristan’s Mir Ali subdivision narrowly escaped when a missile hit the wreckage. “We were looking for the wreckage of the drone in Machikhel village, Mir Ali, and were almost close to the debris of the destroyed aircraft when one of the unmanned aircraft flying over the area fired a missile and hit two missiles lying on the ground,” a senior official of the local administration said.
He said that besides 400 Pakistan Army soldiers, there were dozens of personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC), Khassadars and Levies as well as officials of the political administration, all of them looking for the missing wreckage at the time. He said they narrowly escaped as the missile landed at a short distance from them. “It would have caused heavy losses to security forces and others engaged in the search operation. They were lucky to survive,” the official said.
Another security official said they had lit the area with big lights to let the people and militants know that security forces were searching for the missing wreckage when five unmanned aircraft started flying over the area. “They decided not to get close to the area where the wreckage was supposed to be lying due to the fear of missile attack,” the official said. He said some of the people even remarked that one should expect anything from the US and suggested not to go beyond a certain position as it could be risky, especially when the aircraft were flying over their heads.