Authorities in Pakistan say they are in constant contact with Afghan officials to ensure speedy recovery.
Afghanistan scrambled on Friday to free six crewmembers of a Pakistani helicopter taken hostage by the Taliban after it crashed in the country’s volatile east.
Militants set the Mi-17 transport helicopter on fire and took the six crew to a Taliban-controlled area after it made an emergency landing in Logar province on Thursday, local authorities said. The crew included retired Pakistani military officers and a Russian navigator, according to local media.
“We have launched an investigation into the incident… and the government has instructed security forces to spare no efforts to secure the release of the crew members,” the Afghan defense ministry said in a statement. The ministry said Pakistan had sought permission to fly a helicopter, being sent to Russia for overhauling, over Afghan air space. But it added it was investigating whether the crashed chopper was the one for which permission had been granted.
Kabul has long been suspicious of Pakistan, which it accuses of nurturing Taliban sanctuaries on its soil in the effort to maintain influence in Afghanistan.
Pakistan Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa tweeted that General Raheel Sharif had telephoned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to secure the release of the crew. “President Ashraf Ghani assured all possible assistance in this regard,” he tweeted.
Russia’s foreign ministry said it was checking media reports that one of their citizens had been taken hostage, adding it was in contact with Afghan and Pakistani authorities to secure his release.
A Taliban commander based in Afghanistan told Newsweek that seven people had been taken into custody—one more than claimed by official sources. “Seven people, including one foreigner who might be a Russian national, are currently in Taliban custody and are so far safe,” he said. “The shura will decide their fate,” he added.
Pakistan’s military uses Russian-made MI-17 helicopters, several of which have crashed in recent years. In February, an Army officer was killed when a military helicopter crashed in northern Pakistan on a routine night training mission. In May 2015 the ambassadors of Norway and the Philippines, the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors, two pilots and a crewmember were killed when the Pakistani Mi-17 carrying them crashed in Naltar valley.