Pakistan seeks return of copter crew

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Afghan Taliban claim crew safe in their custody

Staff Reporter

Rawalpindi—Army Chief General Raheel Sharif contacted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani through telephone on Friday, to discuss the Pakistani helicopter crash-landing and subsequent hijacking of the crew by Taliban.
Gen Raheel sought assistance from Afghan President for safe recovery of the crew, who assured the COAS of “all possible assistance in this regard”.
General Raheel and President Ghani also exchanged views on the Punjab government helicopter which had crash-landed in the Afghan province of Logar.
“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.
In a statement, Waziri confirmed that Afghan government had given permission to a Pakistani helicopter to use Afghanistan’s air space, but it was not known so far if the MI-17 helicopter crash-landed in Logar was that plane.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday said the government was using “formal and informal channels” to seek the return of seven passengers of a crashed helicopter who were reportedly taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“Formal and informal channels are being used to ensure safe recovery of the entire crew,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in statement from his office.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Foreign Office stated that as soon as the helicopter entered Afghanistan’s airspace, communication was disrupted. Foreign Office also claimed that Afghanistan government has not confirmed anything yet regarding the helicopter.
According to the Foreign Office, the helicopter flew for Russia on Thursday morning at 08: 45 am and after 10:00 am, all communication with the aircraft was cut off. After communication with the helicopter was cut off, the Afghan authorities were contacted yet they could not confirm anything regarding the incident.
The spokesperson said that Afghan authorities were informed regarding the helicopter’s route well in advance. The aircraft was headed off to Russia for repair work and it had to stop for refueling in Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile, Afghan Taliban on Friday claimed to have held the crew on board Punjab government’s helicopter that crash-landed in Afghanistan as hostage.
They claimed to have held all seven crew members on board as hostage.
Taliban sources announced that the fate of the hostages shall be announced by the central shura, however, the session of the shura has yet not been called.
Taliban have also released the names of the hostages.
A senior Afghan Taliban commander, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed all seven passengers were in their custody and that negotiations for their release were ongoing. The commander’s claim has not been independently verified.
“They are being looked after, being provided tea, food, everything,” he said. “We are in touch with the Pakistani officials. We conveyed to them that they are in safe hands.”
He added that it was no use seeking help from the Afghan government or US military, because the Taliban are in full control of the district.
Afghan government has ‘no control over the area’
Hamidullah Hamid, governor of the Azra district in Logar province, said that all seven people aboard the chopper had been detained by Taliban after the crash.
He said “the government has no control of the area” where the chopper crashed and burst into flames.
The Pakistani government and military did not directly confirm direct talks with the Taliban. Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Asim Bajwa earlier confirmed that seven people were on board the helicopter including retired military officers and a Russian navigator.
“We are profoundly concerned about the safety of the whole team that was travelling on the helicopter.
We have formally requested the government of Afghanistan to help in their safe recovery at the earliest possible,” said a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The Foreign Ministry said it was in touch with Afghan government officials, with Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz saying consultations with an Afghan delegation are underway at the Foreign Office.

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