A Boeing 747 jet en route to Dubai crashed and caught fire moments after lifting off on Monday morning from Bagram Airfield in northeast Afghanistan. Seven crew members aboard the civilian craft, which was designed to carry cargo, were killed in the crash. (Their nationalities are not yet known.) A photo of the wreckage, captured by a news agency of the Afghan government, shows the long trail of black smoke billowing from the fuselage:
(Update, Tuesday: There's raw video footage — and it is horrifying.)
The crash appears to be the deadliest accident involving aircraft at Bagram Airfield since it became an extensive military base, established upon the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in December 2001. The airfield has been the target of multiple deadly attacks staged by local insurgents since the Pentagon took it over, including a suicide bombing that killed 23 people inside the base's gates, coinciding with a visit by then-Vice President Dick Cheney. The site was previously an airport erected in the 1950s and controlled by the Afghan Air Force.
Taliban officials in Afghanistan immediately declared responsibility for Monday's crash, a claim heatedly refuted by a spokesperson for NATO. Otherwise it's unclear how the violent crash occurred. (A webpage arranged by the plane's carrier, New York-based National Air Cargo, did not specify the nature of the crash; nor did a spokesman for the carrier.) Staff at the tightly-secured airfield, located 40 miles north of Kabul, detected no insurgent activity before the crash.
The crash does not appear related to other recent violence in the region. In early March, two missiles landed on the base but did not hurt anyone. The Taliban later claimed their members had launched them.