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TTP denied involvement in shooting down Punjab govt helicopter

08 August, 2016

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PESHAWAR: Pakistani officials remained in custody of the Afghan Taliban for fourth consecutive day on Sunday, while Pakistani Taliban on Sunday denied their involvement in shooting down the Punjab government transport helicopter that crash-landed in Afghanistan's eastern Logar province or taking the seven officials hostage, saying no militant group does exist by the name of Hakimullah Mehsud.

Mohammad Khurassani, a spokesman of the proscribed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), headed by Maulana Fazlullah Khorasani, on Sunday reacted to a previous claim made by a purported spokesman for a little known militant faction, TTP Hakimullah Mehsud group, saying there is only TTP and that is led by Maulana Fazlullah Khorasani.

A militant, Qari Saifullah had earlier called a section of the Pakistani media and introduced himself as a spokesman for TTP Hakimullah Mehsud group, claiming their group had shot down the Pakistani helicopter in Afghanistan's Logar province and held all the seven officials, one of them Russian pilot, hostage.

He had even claimed that the Russian pilot was injured and had been held at a safe place in Afghanistan. The so-called spokesman had warned to kill all the officials in their possession if what he said, Nato, the Afghan forces or the Afghan Taliban used force to free the Pakistani officials from their custody.

He claimed that a Pakistani militant commander, Adam Khan Kochi and his men were behind shooting down of the helicopter and were now holding the Pakistani officials. The TTP spokesman, Mohammad Khurassani, however denied these reports, saying Adam Khan Kochi is their commander but he has no involvement in the helicopter incident.

"Adam Khan Kochi is our senior commander but he was neither involved in shooting down the Pakistani helicopter nor holding the seven officials. This is absolutely false claim," the TTP spokesman said.

He rather threatened journalists of serious action if they didn't stop attributing false news stories to them. Meanwhile, the six Pakistani officials and one Russian pilot remained in custody of the Afghan Taliban for fourth consecutive day as efforts to secure their release couldn't bear fruit.

There were reports that the a group of the Afghan Taliban had demanded the release of their former deputy leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar Akhund and 100 other Taliban prisoners in exchange for the Pakistani officials and one Russian pilot.

Senior members of the Afghan Taliban, however, rejected these reports, saying that none of their people had made any demand. They said all the seven men were in good health and are being looked after. The Taliban members said that their leadership had decided to release them but working on a plan when and where to free them so they remain safe.

There were also reports that Taliban were not willing to either hand them over Nato or the Afghan government. "Our top concern at the moment is their security," one Taliban member said.

The Punjab government transport helicopter MI-17 was heading to Uzbekistan via Afghanistan for routine maintenance when it crash-landed in Afghanistan's Logar province on Thursday. Since the area is stated to be under the control of the Afghan Taliban, therefore their fighters in the area immediately arrived and held hostage the officials onboard. They shifted them to their secret compound, believed to be in same province, and during initial interrogation, they found them as Pakistanis.

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