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Crashed Pakistani chopper crew safe, says Afghan envoy 

Islamabad, Aug 5 (IANS) All crew members aboard a Pakistani helicopter that crashlanded in Afghanistan were safe, Afghan Ambassador in Islamabad Omar Zakhilwal said on Friday.

Six people, including a Russian national, aboard were taken hostage by the Taliban as the helicopter landed in Logar province while on its way to Russia via Uzbekistan for repair and maintenance, Xinhua news agency reported.

Afghan officials said the Taliban took the crew members along with them and efforts were underway to secure their release.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said he was seeking information about the incident.

“All crew members are safe,” Zakilwal said on Friday.

He confirmed the Taliban had taken the crew and President Ashraf Ghani has asked the security forces to assist in recovering the hostages.

“I am hopeful there will be a peaceful ending to this,” Ghani said.

Pakistani officials said the helicopter belonged to Punjab province and permission to use the Afghan airspace had been sought.

Military spokesman General Asim Bajwa has said army chief General Raheel Sharif had spoken to General John Nicholson, the Resolute Support Mission’s commander, hours after the helicopter made a crashlanding.

“The army chief called Nicholson, asked him to help in recovery of crew of Punjab government helicopter,” Bajwa said on his official Twitter.

Bajwa said the Afghan government and the National Army have also been contacted for their assistance in recovering the crew members.

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