The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

April 22, 2013

Taliban capture 11 from helicopter in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — 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 said Monday.

The civilian aircraft landed in strong winds and heavy rain on Sunday in the village of Dahra Mangal in the Azra district of Logar province, southeast 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 20 kilometers (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 attache 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 organization 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."

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