Taliban seize 15 soldiers after Afghanistan helicopter crash

Three people were also killed in the crash.

Kabul: Fifteen soldiers including two foreigners were taken hostage by the Taliban today after their helicopter crash-landed in northern Afghanistan, local officials and militant sources said.

The helicopter went down after experiencing technical problems, local officials said, and 15 people on board were seized by the militant group, including two foreign soldiers whose nationality is yet to be confirmed.

Three people were also killed in the crash, which happened in the Pashtun Kot district of Faryab province, an area near the border with Turkmenistan that is partly controlled by the Taliban.

The Afghan army launched an operation late Tuesday to try and rescue the group, but was forced to abandon the raid after facing strong resistance from the insurgents.

"We captured 15 (people). If the army doesn't stop (its rescue attempts) we will execute them," Damullah Wakil, a local Taliban official, told AFP.

Provincial police chief Sayed Aqa Andarabi said: "The helicopter had a technical problem and had to crash land. Three people were killed."

Another police source, who declined to be named, added: "They captured 15 passengers of the helicopter. Among them are two foreigners."
Reza Razayee, Afghan army spokesman in Faryab province, confirmed that all of the 15 people seized were soldiers.

The US-led NATO coalition, which has 13,000 foreign troops in the country, declined to comment on the incident. A US defence official said there were no American personnel on board.

Faryab province has in recent months been the scene of bitter fighting between Afghan security forces and Islamist insurgents, who are increasingly active in northern Afghanistan.

In late September the Taliban temporarily seized control of provincial capital Kunduz -- the first time the group had taken control of a major city since being toppled from power in 2001.

Galvanised by the brief conquest, they launched assaults on other cities, including the capital of Faryab province, Maimana, but they were pushed back by heavily armed local residents, while local security forces reportedly to abandon their posts.  

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