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Pakistan Seeks Return Of Helicopter Passengers Captured By Taliban

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says his government is using "formal and informal channels" to seek the return of seven passengers of a crashed Pakistani helicopter who were captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Sharif made the comments in an August 5 statement, after the Pakistani government aircraft crash-landed the day before in the eastern Afghan province of Logar.

Pakistani Taliban commander Qari Saifullah Mehsud, in a telephone call with RFE/RL Radio Mashaal correspondent Sailab Mehsud, said Afghan Taliban leaders claim they have only six Pakistanis in custody and said the helicopter pilot was "seriously injured," apparently in the crash landing.

Mehsud said his Afghan counterparts said the crashed helicopter was accompanied by another helicopter that shelled Taliban positions, killing one Taliban member and injuring two others, at the time of the crash.

Other media reports said a seventh crew member -- a Russian navigator -- also was detained by the militants.

Pakistan's army chief, General Raheel Sharif, called Afghanistan’s president to request his country's help.

"Afghan President Ashraf Ghani assured all possible assistance in this regard," a Pakistani military spokesman said.

The Afghan Defense Ministry said the government had instructed security forces to "spare no efforts to secure the release of the crew members."

Islamabad said the Mi-17 transport helicopter was on its way to Russia for maintenance.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and

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