The seven-member crew of a Pakistani helicopter that crashed in a lawless region of Afghanistan is being held by Taliban fighters, officials said on Friday.
Hamidullah Hamid, governor of Azra district in Afghanistan’s Logar province, said all seven people aboard the helicopter were detained by the Taliban after Thursday’s crash.
The government has “no control of the area” where the helicopters crashed and burst into flames, he said.
Pakistani military spokesman Lt Gen Asim Bajwa said the Russian-made helicopter was being flown to Russia via Uzbekistan for maintenance. The crew includes one Russian and at least two Pakistan Army officers.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said an “investigative team” is being sent to the area as it is not contactable by phone.
Taliban sources also confirmed all crew members of the helicopter, which belonged the government of Punjab province, were in their custody, The Express Tribune reported.
“All crew members, including a Russian national, are in the custody of the Taliban commanders in their controlled areas in Logar,” a source was quoted as saying. “They all are safe and a final decision will be taken by the leadership.”
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani instructed security forces to recover the crew of the helicopter, his special envoy for Pakistan, ambassador Omar Zakhilwal, said.
“The President has been in the loop from the outset and has instructed the governor of Logar as well as our security forces to assist in recovering of the hostages. I do believe there will be a peaceful ending to this,” he said.
Pakistan Army chief Gen Raheel Sharif called Ghani and sought his help in the recovery of the crew. “Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assured all possible assistance in this regard,” Lt Gen Bajwa tweeted.