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Afghan Taliban say captured all onboard crashed helicopter

KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban have captured all aboard a helicopter that crashed in a volatile region of Afghanistan's east, a spokesman for the insurgency said on Monday.

The helicopter, owned by air charter company Khorasan Cargo Airlines, made an emergency landing in Logar province late on Sunday due to bad weather, a Khorasan staff member said on condition of anonymity.

"Mujahideen immediately surrounded the chopper, detained (the) foreigners aboard and completely destroyed the helicopter ... by setting it alight," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in an emailed statement.

Onboard the Russian-made Mi-8 helicopter were eight Turkish engineers and at least one Russian pilot, according to Turkish and Russian officials. There was also at least one Afghan pilot aboard.

"The helicopter was carrying eight Turks, the pilots were Russian and Afghan. We believe they are in good health and Turkish officials are in contact with Afghan officials over the issue," Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu said.

Mujahid said nine Americans wearing military uniforms and two translators were onboard, though the Taliban routinely misstate the facts surrounding such incidents.

All onboard were captured alive, and they were being transferred to "the most secure region of the nation", Mujahid said, though he did not say where that was.

Helicopter crashes and "hard landings" occur relatively frequently in mountainous Afghanistan.

In August 2011, 30 U.S. special forces soldiers, seven Afghans and an interpreter were killed when a Chinook transport helicopter was shot down, the deadliest single incident for foreign troops in more than a decade of war.

Khorasan flies Russian Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters as well as fixed-wing aircraft in Afghanistan. They offer troops and cargo transportation as well as medivac and civilian transportation services.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni and Samiullah Paiwand; Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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