x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Taliban takes 11 civilian hostages in east Afghanistan after chopper forced to land

The Taliban says the foreign hostages are 11 US servicemen but Turkey's foreign ministry has confirmed there were eight Turks, one Afghan translator and two foreign pilots of unknown nationality aboard the helicopter.

KABUL // Taliban fighters took 11 people hostage yesterday after a Turkish civilian helicopter made an emergency landing in eastern Afghanistan.

The transport helicopter landed in strong winds and heavy rain on Sunday in a village in the Azra district of Logar province, south-east of Kabul and 30 kilometres from the Pakistan border, said district governor Hamidullah Hamid.

Taliban fighters then captured the nine passengers and two pilots aboard the helicopter and took them from the area, Mr Hamid said.

Arsala Jamal, Logar’s provincial governor, identified the hostages as eight Turks, one Afghan translator and two foreign pilots of unknown nationality.

The Taliban said it captured 11 hostages yesterday, but said they were US servicemen.

A spokesman at Turkey’s foreign ministry confirmed there were eight Turks aboard the helicopter.

The US-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Kabul said the force had assisted a search by Afghan authorities for a downed helicopter but gave no details.

Turkey has about 1,800 soldiers serving with Isaf but, unlike its European allies, its troops do not take part in combat operations.

Ankara has historically close ties with Kabul. Last September Turkey extended by one year its command of an Isaf unit covering the region around the Afghan capital.

Taliban insurgents have been battling Afghan forces and foreign troops since they were ousted from government in 2001.

The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office reported 2,331 insurgent attacks between January andMarch, a 47 per cent rise on the first quarter of last year.

* Associated Press, additional reports by Agence France-Presse