Posted November 26, 2015 09:03:57

The Afghan army has launched an operation to rescue 18 hostages captured by the Taliban right after their helicopter crash-landed in the north, as the private firm operating the aircraft stated it was shot down.

The Taliban killed 3 of these on board — two Afghans and a foreigner — in an initial fire fight and took the rest captive after the crash on Tuesday, the Afghan defence ministry stated in a statement.

The 21 men and women on board included two Moldovan pilots and a Moldovan engineer, the country’s acting prime minister Gheorghe Brega told reporters in Chisinau.

He did not specify if the three have been dead or captured, but the Afghan defence ministry mentioned two foreigners were being held along with an unspecified number of Afghan soldiers.

The helicopter came down in the Pashtun Kot district of Faryab province, an area partly controlled by the militants.

The MI-17 was privately owned by the Valan ICC firm in Moldova, according to Mr Brega, and had been chartered by the Afghan army.

It created an emergency landing “due to technical causes” near Maimana, the capital of Faryab province, the defence ministry statement mentioned.

“Later they encountered battle with the enemy. As a outcome, two army soldiers and a single foreign national had been killed and 18 other folks on board arrested by armed opponents of the government,” it mentioned, with out specifying whether all the Afghans on board had been soldiers.

Even so Valan ICC mentioned in a statement its helicopter had been shot down.

“A distress signal from the crew was received. It informed the client that the helicopter had been attacked, that it had been shot and therefore went down and burned. There was an emergency landing,” organization chief Alexander Zagrebelny said in a statement.

Mr Zagrebelny stated the helicopter and its three crew had been transporting 18 Afghan safety force members at the request of the US State Department.

He denied there had been any technical difficulty.

“This is a virtually new helicopter in best condition,” he stated.

The Taliban, in a statement on their website on Wednesday, stated they had shot the helicopter down.

Moldova seeks US aid

The insurgents fought off an initial attempt on Tuesday by the Afghan army to rescue the surviving hostages, the ministry said. It mentioned a fresh attempt was launched on Wednesday but gave no immediate information.

The Taliban mentioned they had killed five folks and had been holding a further 15, and made no mention of any foreign hostages.

They stated the captives had “been taken to secure regions and are becoming investigated”.

Moldova does not have a diplomatic mission in the war-torn nation and its foreign ministry requested assistance from the United Nations, whilst Brega said his country had appealed to the US for support.

The US-led NATO coalition, which has 13,000 foreign troops in the country, has not yet commented on the incident.

Faryab province has in current months been the scene of bitter fighting among Afghan troops and police and Islamist insurgents, who are increasingly active in the north.

In late September the Taliban temporarily seized manage of the provincial capital of Kunduz — the very first time the group had taken handle of a main city since becoming toppled from power in 2001.

Galvanised by the short conquest, they launched assaults on other cities like Maimana, but had been pushed back by heavily armed local residents although regional security forces reportedly abandoned their posts.

The Taliban have in the previous shot down several military helicopters with little-arms fire.

In October a US F-16 was struck by enemy fire in eastern Afghanistan, in a rare case of an advanced jet fighter coming beneath a Taliban-claimed attack.

AFP

Subjects: government-and-politics, unrest-conflict-and-war, afghanistan

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