Lost Pakistani helicopter crew freed in Afghanistan
The helicopter, similar to this one, was en route to Russia for maintenance. (AFP/File)
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The missing six crew members of a Pakistani helicopter that crash-landed in Afghanistan last week were recovered and returned to Islamabad on Saturday, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry announced.
The MI-17 helicopter was on its way to Russia on August 4 when it crash-landed in a Taliban-controlled area of Logar province, where the crew was captured by rebels, according to Afghan officials.
Pakistan sought help from Afghan government and NATO while Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said last week that all "formal and informal" channels were being used to release the crew.
The five Pakistanis and one Russian who went missing have been recovered and reached Islamabad, Foreign Ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria wrote in a statement.
"The crew was released in an inter-tribe exchange on the Pakistan-Afghan border in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). They were further transported from FATA to Islamabad by a helicopter," Zakaria said.
"All crew members are safe and in good health," he added.
An Interior Ministry official said the crew was handed over to Pakistan in Kurram, which is one of the seven tribal districts.
The helicopter was being flown to Russia for routine maintenance when it made landing due to unknown technical glitch.
Taliban refused to say anything about the crash or crew release.
"We have not gathered any information in regards to the crash of the helicopter or the release of the crew yet," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said. "At the moment, there is nothing I can say,"