Crew of crashed Punjab govt copter reaches Islamabad

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Tariq Saeed

Peshawar—The crew of the Punjab Government helicopter that had crashed in Afghanistan’s Logar province on August 4, has been released by the Afghan Taliban and was handed over to Pakistani Authorities in Kurram agency. The sources in the government has also confirmed the landing of the crew, including senior officials, in Islamabad on Saturday.
“The crew members of the helicopter were released by the captors on Friday and handed over to political authorities. They were airlifted to Islamabad on Saturday and are safe and sound”, the official sources said.
Credible sources confirmed that the release of the crew could be made possible through talks between the tribal Jirgas on both sides of the border as hinted earlier by the Foreign Office that had said the Afghan government was trying to secure their release with the help of elders of the area.
The six crew members have been identified as Capt. Safdar Hussein (Chief Pilot), Capt. Safdar Ashraf, Capt. Muhammad Shafiq-ur-Rehman (First Officer), Nasir Mahmoud (Flt Engineer), Muhammad Kausar (Crew Chief), Sergei Sevastianov (Russian navigator), the foreign office confirmed.
A Punjab government M-I 17 helicopter en-route Uzbekistan had crash landed in Logar province in Afghanistan after developing technical fault. All the six of its crew members were taken hostage by the Taliban including five Pakistanis and a Russian technician, saying they will be released after conducting some investigations.
The Afghan Taliban had also said the crew members were being looked after properly and provided tea, food, everything adding they were in touch with the Pakistani officials and conveyed to them that the crew was in safe hands.
Since then hectic efforts both on political and military level were underway to ensure the safe and early recovery of the hostages. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said a week back his government was using formal and informal channels to seek the return of seven passengers of the helicopter.
While on one hand the Pakistani officials were negotiating the release of the held members with their Afghani counterparts, the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif had also the very same day called Commander Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan General Nicolson asking him to play his role in the recovery of the helicopter crew. The army chief also called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last week and requested him to help ensuring a safe and early recovery of the crashed copter crew.
Sources said the Pakistani authorities would now question the released crew as to what led to the crash landing of the chopper in Afghanistan territory and who exactly were their captors.

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