Two Ukrainian Pilots Abducted By Taliban

KIEV, Ukraine -- Two Ukrainian pilots along with seven Turkish workers may have been abducted by Taliban in eastern Afghanistan when a Russian-made helicopter resorted to emergency landing, Russian radio reported Monday, citing a local official.

Taliban rebels in Afghanistan

“The hostages are alive,” Radio Rossii reported citing Mohammad Darwesh, a spokesman for local Afghan authorities in the region.

“The authorities are holding negotiations with Taliban on release of the hostages.

Taliban has not yet issued any demands.”

The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Monday could not confirm whether Ukrainian citizens were onboard of the helicopter.

The helicopter was forced down late Sunday because of a storm, according to the Afghan transport company that operated it, and it had to land in Mangal Khel, a mountainous area of Logar Province that is almost entirely controlled by the Taliban, The New York Times reported on Monday.

In all, 11 people were abducted, according to reports from the Turkish foreign ministry and Afghan government officials.

They included eight Turkish engineers, one Afghan man and the two pilots of the Russian-made helicopter.

One pilot was identified by The New York Times as Russian, while the nationality of the second pilot could not be confirmed.

How the Taliban leverage their unexpected capture of foreigners will indicate, to some extent, their overall priorities.

They could use the hostages for short-term goals, like offering them in exchange for the release of Taliban prisoners from the Bagram Prison, where some 3,000 accused insurgents are in custody.

Or they might quietly seek a large ransom in exchange for the hostages’ release to help finance their operations, according to the newspaper.

And as efforts grind on to restart either American or Afghan peace talks with the Taliban, there is also the chance that the windfall of hostages might lead the Taliban to believe that they suddenly are in a stronger position in any potential negotiations. 

Afghan officials, one of whom described the abductions as “very terrible,” said they were worried that the hostages might be taken to Pakistan, where many international terrorist groups are based.

The area where the helicopter landed is less than 20 miles from the Pakistani border. 

Source: Ukrainian Journal