A Turkish transport helicopter carrying at least 11 civilians was forced to make an emergency landing in a Taliban-controlled area in eastern Afghanistan, and the insurgents took all the people on board prisoner, including eight Turks and a Russian, officials have said.
The civilian aircraft landed in strong winds and heavy rain yesterday in the village of Dahra Mangal in the Azra district of Logar province, south-east of Kabul, District Governor Hamidullah Hamid told The Associated Press. He said the helicopter came down in a gorge in the densely forested region, known for narrow gorges and rugged mountains, about 12 miles from the Pakistani border.
The Taliban fighters then captured everyone aboard the helicopter and took them away, Hamid said.
In a telephone interview, Arsala Jamal, the Logar provincial governor, identified the prisoners as eight Turks, one Afghan translator and two foreign pilots of unknown nationality.
In Ankara, a spokesman at Turkey's Foreign Ministry confirmed that eight Turks were aboard the helicopter but had no information on their condition or what had happened to them after the emergency landing. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with ministry regulations.
Stepan Anikeyev, the Russian Embassy's press attaché in Kabul, said in a phone interview that a Russian man was being held prisoner. He said the Russians know he was one of the two pilots, but they don't have details about his identity yet, and they are in "constant touch" with local officials in Afghanistan.
There was no information about the other pilot.
"A helicopter that belongs to no military organisation made emergency landing in an area of Logar province," Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi said. "We have sent our police forces to the area to investigate the situation, to find out the reason of the landing and to know who was in the helicopter, how many of them were there and their whereabouts at the moment."
Security forces were dispatched to the area where the helicopter landed and engaged in firefights with the Taliban but quickly retreated because they had no support, said Logar Deputy Police Chief Rais Khan Abdul Rahimzai.
"We brought the police back because there was no help from the (Nato) coalition or the Afghan army. The police were unable to secure the area, which is very rural, and we were worried," Rahimzai said. He said that information they had from the region was that the prisoners were taken by the Taliban to Hisarak district of neighbouring Nangarhar province.