WASHINGTON (AP) -- An unmanned U.S. spy plane collecting intelligence for the war in Afghanistan has crashed, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
The Air Force RQ-1 Predator aircraft went down in Pakistan early Tuesday, Pakistan time, while it was returning to its base, officials said.
There was no indication the crash resulted from hostile fire and it was being investigated, said Cmdr. Frank Merriman of U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Fla.
In other developments, U.S. officials said John Walker Lindh, an American who fought for the Taliban, probably will be flown Tuesday from his confinement on a Navy ship to the United States to face a charge of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens.
Also a judge in Los Angeles was scheduled to hear a petition challenging the handling of foreign prisoners from the war on terrorism who are being held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
It was at least the second time a Predator is known to have crashed in the region in the anti-terror campaign started after the Sept. 11 attacks on America.
In early November the Pentagon said one had crashed in bad weather. Also, in late September, before the bombing started there, the Pentagon acknowledged it had lost contact with one.
The drone can take pictures and listen to enemy communications, flying at 25,000 feet. An entire Predator system -- including a ground control station and four aircraft -- costs about $25 million.
Predators have seen heavy use in Afghanistan, including by the CIA, which has flown some armed with missiles on their wings to attack Taliban and al-Qaida targets.
The larger Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle Global Hawk also has been used, making its debut in the combat zone over Afghanistan. The 44-foot-long drone can fly above 65,000 feet, see through clouds and transmit images to the battlefield in "near-real-time," according to the military.
Unmanned vehicles can fly into dangerous combat areas to gather intelligence without any threat to U.S. troops. Among other reconnaissance methods used in the war have been manned spy planes and U.S. intelligence-gathering satellites.
Meanwhile, officials said Lindh was flying from the amphibious attack ship USS Bataan cruising the Arabian Sea to a transfer point and then on to the United States. The officials spoke on condition they not be named.
They said Lindh would be handed over to the Department of Justice and the federal district court of northern Virginia, where Frenchman Zacarias Moussaoui is awaiting trial for alleged complicity in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Lindh, a 20-year-old Californian who converted to Islam four years ago, allegedly trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan. He was captured in November in the siege of Kunduz and survived the bloody prison uprising by Taliban and al-Qaida members near Mazar-e-Sharif in which CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann was killed.
The conspiracy charge carries a life sentence. Lindh was to be sent to the United States -- and not Guantanamo -- because he is an American citizen.
Civil rights advocates want the U.S. to stop sending non-Americans to Guantanamo as well.
A hearing was set Tuesday before U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz, who decided over the weekend to consider a petition filed by The Committee of Clergy, Lawyers and Professors.
The challenge demands that the government bring terrorist suspects captured in Afghanistan and Bosnia before a U.S. court and define the charges against them. The Bush administration is calling them "battlefield detainees" -- which avoids affording them prisoner of war rights under the Geneva Convention -- while it figures out how to deal with them.
It is considering military tribunals, but is still working on rules and procedures, the Pentagon says.
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