ISLAMABAD - Afghan authorities said Wednesday that a security operation is underway in a northern part of the country to rescue 16 soldiers and two foreigners who the Taliban took captive after their helicopter crash-landed in a district controlled by insurgents.
Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told VOA the MI-17 helicopter owned by a private foreign company was on its way to Faryab province after taking off from the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif when it developed a problem forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Pashtun Kot district.
Waziri said Taliban insurgents surrounded the helicopter, prompting a shootout that killed two Afghan soldiers and a crew member, while the insurgents captured 18 other people who were on board.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi claimed in a statement it shot down the helicopter. He said that five people on board had been killed, while 15 others who managed to get out of the burning aircraft were captured by Taliban fighters.
Ahmadi said the hostages were taken to a safe place for interrogation. He did not give further details or say whether foreigners are among the captives.
Waziri gave no details about the nationality of the two foreign captives.