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Chopper crash: Islamabad requests Kabul to recover crew

AT-KABUL: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan on Friday requested the Afghan government to locate and recover the crew of a Pakistani chopper, taken hostage by the Taliban.

A Pakistani helicopter was on its way to Uzbekistan for maintenance when made crash landing on Thursday in the highly insecure Azra district of Logar province. Taliban are dominant in the district. The seven-member crew included a Russian navigator and four retired Pakistani military officials.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement said that it is in close touch with all relevant Afghan officials to trace the missing crew.

Islamabad requested Kabul to make efforts for early recovery of the crew, taken hostage by the Taliban.

“The Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul is actively pursuing the matter,” the ministry said.

Pakistani government on Friday decided to send a delegation to Afghanistan to secure release of the crew. However, Islamabad has not provided details that when the delegation would arrive in Kabul.

Pakistan Army Chief Gen. Raheel Sharif also requested President Ashraf Ghani for recovery of the crew. He made a telephone call to the Afghan president on Friday and asked him to help in safe recovery of the crew which is likely to be used as bargaining chip by the Taliban to release imprisoned leaders.

“Chief of Army Staff called Afghan President Ashraf Ghani today and asked him to help in safe and early recovery of crew members of Punjab government helicopter that crash landed in Logar province of Afghanistan on yesterday. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assured all possible assistance in this regard,” tweeted Gen. Asim Saleem Bajwa, Director General of ISPR, media wing of Pakistan armed forces.

Bajwa tweeted that Raheel Sharif also called commander of the Resolute Support Mission and the US forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Nicolson, to help in recovery of the crew.

According to Dawn, a Pakistani daily, a senior Taliban commander has confirmed that the insurgent group has taken the crew hostage. Negotiations for their release are underway. The commander, whose identity could not be verified, said that Taliban are in contact with Pakistani officials.

It is said the Taliban would use the crew as bargaining chip to release its leaders and key al-Qaeda members from Afghan and Pakistani prisons.

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