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Pakistan Chopper Crashes in Afghanistan

by AFP and Staff Report
File Photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

File Photo. Aamir Qureshi—AFP

Officials say six people on board are believed to have been abducted by the Taliban.

A government helicopter crash-landed in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, officials said, without confirming reports six people on board were taken hostage by the Taliban.

“Six people were boarding it, but we are unaware of their fate,” a senior government official based in Lahore told AFP on condition of anonymity. The helicopter was being sent to Uzbekistan for overhauling when it crashed in Azra district, in the restive Afghan province of Logar, the official added.

Earlier, local district governor Hamidullah Hamid said six people on board had been taken hostage by the Taliban and transported to an unknown location. Local media reported the six included five retired Pakistani military officials and one Russian technician.

The insurgents have not so far commented on the incident.

Kabul has long accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban and nurturing sanctuaries on its soil in the hope of maintaining influence in Afghanistan.

A spokesman for Pakistani embassy in Kabul confirmed the crash, but would not say if the passengers had been kidnapped. “An Mi-17 transport helicopter belonging to the Punjab government was scheduled to fly to Russia for repair. We think the same chopper crash-landed in Logar,” said Akhtar Munir. “We don’t know anything about the fate of those on board or why it crashlanded.”

The Mi-17 caught fire after the crash, according to the provincial governor’s spokesman Salim Saleh.

There was no official comment from Afghan defense ministry officials. However, in a series of posts on Twitter, Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa said military chief Gen. Raheel Sharif had contacted top U.S. commander in Afghanistan John Nicholson and asked him to aid in the recovery of the crew.

“[The] heli was going to Russia for maintenance,” he said, adding that Nicholson had assured all possible help in recovering the missing passengers.

The Pakistan Army 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. Last August 12 people were killed when a helicopter belonging to the Army crashed in northwest Pakistan. And seven people, including two foreign ambassadors, died in May last year when a Mi-17 Army helicopter crashed at a holiday resort in the hills of Gilgit.

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