KABUL, Afghanistan — After their helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing in eastern Afghanistan, a group of mostly Turkish civilians was quickly surrounded by Taliban fighters and abducted, authorities said Monday.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for capturing 11 people from the aircraft and charged that they were NATO soldiers posing as civilians. Local officials and a NATO spokesman said that wasn’t true.
The private helicopter was carrying mechanical supplies and technical staff from a project in eastern Khowst province to Kabul on Sunday evening when it made a hard landing in the Azra district of eastern Logar province because of bad weather, said Din Mohammad Darwish, a spokesman for the governor of Logar.
The Taliban seized everyone aboard, Darwish said, adding that the Afghan government had launched a rescue mission.
The mountainous, sparsely populated Azra district is largely controlled by Taliban, who often move across the porous border between Afghanistan and restive northwest Pakistan.
Accounts varied slightly about who was aboard. The Turkish foreign ministry in Ankara said its information was that there were eight Turks, one Afghan and one Russian. A Russian Embassy press attache in Kabul confirmed that the pilot was Russian.
“Afghan authorities, with local leaders, are trying to ascertain where they are,” the Turkish official said, requesting that his name not be used. “We understand they’re in good health.”
John Manley, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, confirmed that a civilian helicopter had gone down in eastern Afghanistan and said ISAF was assisting in the recovery operation.
In an email to news organizations, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the kidnappings and said the 11 people on the aircraft were posing as civilians but were in fact NATO troops wearing U.S. uniforms. The message said all those aboard were transferred to “the most secure region of the nation” — presumably a Taliban stronghold.
Manley said there was “absolutely no truth” to the claim that the abductees were wearing U.S. uniforms.