- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 19, 2009

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) | A U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle fighter crashed early Saturday in central Afghanistan, killing the two crew members, the U.S. military said.

A statement by the Air Force Central Command said that the crash was not due to hostile fire and that a board of officers would be convened to determine the cause. Names of the crew members were not released. Their deaths bring to 50 the number of international service members killed in Afghanistan in July - already the deadliest month of the war for NATO forces.

No fighter jets have crashed in Afghanistan in years. Militants are able to shoot down helicopters with rockets but are not known to have the anti-aircraft weaponry necessary to bring down a high-flying jet.

The U.S. statement did not say where the crash happened. But Afghan authorities said the plane went down in the Nawur district of Ghazni province in central Afghanistan - a peaceful area populated by the ethnic Hazara minority.

Meanwhile, across the border in Pakistan, government warplanes flattened a suspected Taliban hideout in the northwest early Saturday, killing nine associates of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, intelligence officials said.

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