Taliban capture 11 foreigners in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban took 11 civilians prisoner, including eight Turks and a Russian, after their cargo helicopter made an emergency landing in eastern Afghanistan, officials said Monday, in the first large scale capture of foreigners there in nearly six years.

Security forces dispatched to the remote area retreated after engaging in firefights with the insurgents but failing to secure the area or retrieve the captives.

The crisis began Sunday when the civilian transport aircraft was forced down in strong winds and heavy rain 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 12 miles from the Pakistani border.

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.

Although the capture or kidnapping of foreigners is not uncommon in Afghanistan, large scale captures of foreigners are rare.

The foreigners fell into the hands of the Taliban, as opposed to an insurgent initiative aimed at capturing them. Even so, it showed again that the Taliban are still a formidable force facing the Afghan military and police, who will be responsible for security after most foreign forces leave next year.

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 could not identify him.

There was no information about the other pilot.

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