Foreigners held by Afghan Taliban insurgents in Logar

Afghan map

A group of up to nine foreign nationals have been abducted by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, officials say.

Seven Turks, two Russians and one Afghan were in a civilian helicopter was forced to land in bad weather in Azra district in Logar province, the aircraft's operator told the BBC.

The Taliban told the BBC they had the group. The district is known to have a strong Taliban presence.

International forces are assisting in the search for the passengers.

A government spokesman in Logar told the BBC that they are trying to negotiate with the Taliban for the hostages' release, with the help of local tribal elders.

Turkish authorities are also in discussions with Afghan officials over the incident. Turkey's foreign ministry confirmed that Turks had been on the helicopter, but they put the number at eight.

Volatile district

The company responsible for the missing helicopter, Khorasan, said the aircraft was forced down in bad weather on Sunday evening while flying to Kabul from Khost, which is to the south-east of the capital.

It said there were 10 people on board: one was an Afghan, two were Russian pilots, and the other seven were Turkish construction workers.

Azra, the restive district where the helicopter made the forced landing, is close to the Pakistani border and local officials say that while there are some Afghan government forces there, the Taliban and other insurgents have a strong presence.

It appears as if the helicopter was surrounded by insurgents after landing.

The BBC's David Loyn in Kabul reports that on any day there are an average of 100 civilian helicopter flights across Afghanistan.

They are a vital link for remote bases, carrying workers and supplies and are mostly contracted from Russian companies, our correspondent adds.

Turkey has around 1,800 soldiers serving with Nato forces in Afghanistan, but their mission is confined to patrols and Turkey has long had a close relationship with Kabul.

Several Turkish engineers have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in recent years, with some held for up to two years.

Numerous Western, Pakistani and Afghan hostages are being held in Afghanistan including US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, 25, who has been a prisoner for nearly four years.

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