Taliban confirm all aboard crashed Punjab govt helicopter being held

File photo of an MI-17 helicopter. PHOTO: FILE.

File photo of an MI-17 helicopter. PHOTO: FILE.

ISLAMABAD: Taliban sources on Friday confirmed all crew members of crashed Punjab government helicopter are in their custody.

“All crew members, including a Russian national, are in the custody of the Taliban commanders in their controlled areas in Logar,” Taliban sources confirmed to The Express Tribune.

“They all are safe and a final decision will be taken by the leadership,” a Taliban source said.

Earlier today, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani instructed security forces to recover crew members of Punjab government’s helicopter which crash-landed in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday, his special envoy for Pakistan Ambassador Omar Zakhilwal said.

Six people on board were taken hostage by the Taliban as the helicopter went down in Azra district.

Officials say that the helicopter belonged to Punjab and was heading to Russia for overhaul. “All crew members are safe,” ambassador Zakilwal told The Express Tribune.

“The President has been in the loop form 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.

Punjab govt helicopter crashes in Afghanistan, occupants held by Taliban

The ambassador said the helicopter either caught fire after the crash-landing or was damaged beyond repair. “The Taliban have taken the crew to Wach Lagad area after the helicopter went down at a place called Matrai.”

Afghan sources also confirmed to The Express Tribune that the chopper had the “needed over-flight permission to fly to Uzbekistan over Afghanistan.”

Army chief calls Afghan president

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif called the Afghan president and sought his help in safe recovery of the crew members of Punjab govt’s helicopter.

“Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assured all possible assistance in this regard,” DG ISPR Lt-Gen Asim Saleem tweeted.

On Thursday, Bajwa had said General Raheel called General John Nicholson, the Resolute Support Mission’s commander, hours after the helicopter made the crash landing.

“COAS called Gen Nicholson, Commander RSM in Afghanistan, asked him to help in recovery of crew of Punjab government helicopter that crash-landed in Logar province,” Bajwa tweeted. “Gen Nicholson assured [Gen Raheel] of all possible help in this regard.”

The DG ISPR added that the Afghan government and ANA authorities have also been contacted for their assistance in recovering the crew members.

Original news : http://tribune.com.pk/story/1156287/taliban-claim-crew-members-crashed-punjab-govt-helicopter-custody/