Moldovan pilot shot dead by Taliban before helicopter crash
KABUL/MAIMANA (Pajhwok): One of the pilots of the Moldovan helicopter that crashed in Afghanistan in late November was shot dead by Taliban, a spokesman for Moldova’s civil aviation administration said on Tuesday,.
"Pilot Oleg Groza, 55, died of four gunshot wounds in the chest. He was wounded when the helicopter came under Taliban gunfire from the ground,” the spokesman told TASS on Tuesday.
“That was the reason for a crash landing," the spokesman said, adding that the pilot’s body was taken to a German hospital in Afghanistan where he was identified by representatives of Valan International Charter, a Moldovan company that owned the helicopter. The body will soon be taken to Moldova.
Thus, the civil aviation authorities disproved the words of Moldova’s acting Prime Minister George Brega who said last week that all of the helicopter’s crew members - two pilots and navigator — had been taken hostage and were alive. He pledged Afghanistan’s law enforcement bodies were taking measures to have them released.
The Moldovan helicopter contracted by the United States government was shelled in Faryab province on November 24.
After sending a distress signal, the helicopter made an emergency landing. There were 21 people — 18 passengers and three crew members - onboard the rotorcraft.
Afghan security officers reached the crash site to find four dead bodies. The rest were seized by Taliban gunmen. A video with the hostages was posted in the internet on the following day.
The helicopter en route from Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, to Faryab performed the emergency landing after coming under attack from the Taliban in their controlled area in Pashtunkot district.
After the crash, three Afghan National Army troops who resisted their capture were killed by the Taliban during an exchange of fire. The rest 18 including three foreign pilots were taken hostage by the rebels and they are still in their custody.
Local officials say an operation to rescue the hostages has been underway and tribal elders have been engaged to negotiate their release with the captors.
The spokesman for the governor of Faryab, Ahmad Javed Baidar, told Pajhwok Afghan News that 12 Afghan soldiers and three foreign pilots were still in custody of the Taliban and the hostages were alive and in good health condition.
He said the provincial peace committee members and tribal elders were trying to secure the release of the captives. “The negotiators may reach a deal with the captors soon,” he said.
He said the Taliban last week handed over three bodies of Afghan soldiers and one body of a foreigner who could be the Moldovan pilot to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
A Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said the pilot had not been newly killed but he was killed on the first day of the crash and they had released his body to the Red Cross.
At the time of the crash, the Afghan Ministry of Defence had said the helicopter performed the emergency landing due to a technical fault.
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