Muslim guerrillas shot down a Soviet-made Antonov 26 transport plane with a missile in eastern Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 30 people.
Reports from several quarters differed on the number of casualties. The guerrillas claimed that the plane carried 43 military men and crew and that all were killed. But the official Soviet news agency Tass said that 30 people were killed, including women, children and six crew members. Radio Kabul in the Afghan capital said the plane carried civilians and that 36 people were killed.
Leaders of the Yunis Khalis guerrilla group in Islamabad said their fighters hit the twin-engine, propeller-driven aircraft as it was taking off from Khost, about 25 miles from the Pakistani border in Afghanistan's Paktia province. Soviet and Afghan troops have been fighting a major battle with the Muslim fundamentalist guerrillas in the Khost area.
Word From Sympathizers
The guerrillas, whose arsenal includes U.S.-made Stinger and British-made Blowpipe anti-aircraft missiles, said the plane was an Afghan air force transport carrying troops. They said that sympathizers in the Khost garrison told them that 15 Afghan officers, 22 Afghan soldiers and six crew members were killed in the crash. They said the plane was on its way to Kabul.
The Kabul radio report that it was a civilian airliner seemed unlikely to observers here. Khost is under attack by guerrillas much of the time, and most of the civilian population was evacuated or fled years ago to Pakistan, where an estimated 3 million Afghan refugees live.
Two transport squadrons of the Afghan air force use the Antonov 26, which is also widely used by Soviet forces as a military transport.
Thousands of Soviet and Afghan troops were airlifted into Khost over the last two weeks for a major offensive against guerrilla forces. Civilian air service is minimal in Afghanistan and is almost always suspended during major combat operations so that planes can carry troops.
Guerrilla officials said that scattered fighting was still going on south of Khost on Monday. In the offensive, about 10,000 Soviet and Afghan troops recaptured a key mountain pass near Khost that was taken by the guerrillas last month. The Soviet and Afghan forces also bombarded guerrilla positions near the border.
The guerrillas are fighting to overthrow Afghanistan's Soviet-puppet government and force an estimated 115,000 Soviet troops to leave the country.
The guerrilla officials, who asked not to be identified by name, said a missile crew hidden in the hills near the airstrip hit the Antonov 26 as it was climbing. They would not say what kind of missile was used.
The guerrillas, who are based in Pakistan, receive weapons from the United States, China, Saudi Arabia and other nations.