Ankara in talks over kidnapped Turks in Taliban-held Afghan east

The aircraft, which had come from the eastern city of Khost and was heading for Kabul, belonged to a Turkish company. (AFP)

Turkey confirmed on Monday that eight of its nationals were abducted by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan after their helicopter made an emergency landing and said it was holding "intensive talks" with Kabul.

"The Turkish embassy is holding intensive talks with Afghan authorities to find out their whereabouts," a foreign ministry diplomat told AFP. He said there was no information about their well-being.

Taliban insurgents seized eight Turks and an Afghan from a civilian helicopter which made an emergency landing in bad weather in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, officials said.

An Afghan local official who declined to be identified said tribal chiefs are also trying to secure the captives' return.

The aircraft, which had come from the eastern city of Khost and was heading for Kabul, belonged to a Turkish company.

The civilian helicopter made an emergency landing on Sunday evening, said Rais Khan Sadeq, deputy police chief of Logar province south of Kabul.

"Security forces found the helicopter but the nine people were not in it. They are taken by the Taliban. They are Turkish nationals and are nine people including the crew," Sadeq told AFP.

Hamidullah Hamid, governor of Azr district where the helicopter came down, also said nine Turks on board had been seized by the Taliban.

The International Security Assistance Force in Kabul said the force assisted a search by Afghan authorities for a helicopter but gave no details.

The helicopter, owned by air charter company Khorasan Cargo Airlines, made an emergency landing in Logar province late on Sunday due to bad weather, a Khorasan staff member said on condition of anonymity.

"The helicopter was carrying eight Turks, the pilots were Russian and Afghan. We believe they are in good health and Turkish officials are in contact with Afghan officials over the issue," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu said.

The spokesman said the passengers and pilots were in good health.

A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Kabul confirmed at least one of the two foreign pilots was a Russian citizen.

Officials in Logar province said it was likely the group was now in the hands of the Taliban. The helicopter landed in Logar's eastern-most district, Azra, which borders Pakistan and is a hotbed of Taliban activity.

The company spoke to the pilots on Sunday afternoon but had heard nothing from them since, the staff member said.

Rais Khan Sadiq, a senior Logar police detective, told Reuters news agency he believed insurgents had captured all those on board but was unable to confirm that immediately.

A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said a helicopter had come down in eastern Afghanistan but was unable to provide more details.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location that he could not yet confirm if insurgents were holding the group.

Helicopter crashes and "hard landings" happen relatively frequently in mountainous Afghanistan.

In August 2011, 30 U.S. special forces soldiers, seven Afghans and an interpreter were killed when a Chinook transport helicopter was shot down, the deadliest single incident for foreign troops in more than a decade of war.

 

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Last Update: Monday, 22 April 2013 KSA 13:15 - GMT 10:15
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