ISLAMABAD — Taliban militants say they have captured the crew and passengers of an Afghan-owned civilian helicopter that was forced to make an emergency landing in militant-controlled territory in eastern Afghanistan.
A civilian helicopter apparently landed Sunday in bad weather in the eastern Afghan province of Logar, about 30 kilometers from the Pakistani border.
Turkey's Foreign Ministry confirmed that eight Turks were among those on board the helicopter. The aircraft had been traveling from Khost to the capital, Kabul. Other people on board included at least one Afghan and one Russian. A statement from the Taliban claims the helicopter carried 11 Americans along with two Afghan translators and that all had been taken to a secure location after the helicopter was destroyed.
Interior Ministry spokesman Seddiq Seddiqui said security forces had been sent to the site, but could not confirm who was on board the flight.
“It is one of those helicopters typically chartered by a private outfit or a construction company,” he said. “We do not have information about the identity of the crew and passengers of the helicopter, we are working on it and we hope by the end of today we will be able to provide some details.”
Many private companies operating in Afghanistan use chartered helicopters to travel because of the danger of traveling on the road.
Contacted by VOA, The Khorasan Cargo Airlines office in Afghanistan declined to comment, saying they had no information on the incident. Khorasan is a civilian company that offers cargo and civilian transportation inside Afghanistan.
A spokesman for Logar’s provincial governor, Deen Mohammad Darwesh said the helicopter had been chartered by a private Turkish company, and that bad weather had forced the pilot to make an emergency landing in the Azra district of Lugar Sunday afternoon. He also said most of those on board were Turkish nationals.
NATO spokesman General Gunter Katz says coalition forces are working with the Afghan government to carry out search and rescue operations.
“[On] unconfirmed reports that a civilian helicopter is missing in eastern Afghanistan - ISAF is assisting the Afghan authorities in the search for this helicopter and this is all I can tell you for the time being,” he said.
Logar is known as a province with a relatively strong Taliban presence. More than 20 militants were killed and dozens of others captured there last month in a joint Afghan and international forces operation.
Meanwhile, the International Security Forces released a statement Monday saying Afghan and coalition forces have arrested a leader of the terrorist Haqqani network in eastern Afghanistan.
They also said a local Taliban leader in southern Afghanistan, responsible for organizing attacks on Afghan and coalition forces had been killed, and confirmed the death of a senior leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, one of a number of militant groups operating in Afghanistan.