Afghan Taliban ambush chopper after emergency landing; 3 die

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban insurgents on Tuesday ambushed a military-contracted helicopter that made an emergency landing in northwestern Afghanistan, killing three people in a shootout and capturing 16 others who were on board, Afghan officials said.

Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri confirmed the helicopter had gone down in Faryab province, which has been the scene of heavy fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces. He would not say where the helicopter was headed or who was on board, and it was not immediately clear why the helicopter was forced to land there.

But an army officer in Faryab, insisting on anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media the media, said the civilian aircraft had been contracted to transport army personnel. He said that after it landed, Taliban fighters rushed to the area, sparking the shootout and then seizing everyone on board. They later burned the chopper, he added.

"Three people have been killed and 16 others are captured by Taliban," said Ramatullah Turkistani, a member of the provincial council in Faryab.

Col. Michael T. Lawhorn, spokesman for the U.S. support mission in Afghanistan, said the U.S. military had no reports of any Americans on board the helicopter that was attacked.

Elsewhere in the country, a provincial director from Afghanistan's national tax office was killed by Taliban insurgents in the eastern Ghazni province, said Mohammad Ali Ahmedi, Ghazni's deputy governor.

Insurgents stopped the director's vehicle as he was on his way to his office, dragged him out and shot and killed him, Ahmedi said.

The Taliban have been responsible for thousands of deaths since launching their insurgency after their regime was toppled in a 2001 U.S. invasion.

Meanwhile, in two separate blasts in the capital, Kabul, six civilians were killed and six others were wounded, said Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

"The first explosion happened when a pressure cooker full of explosives detonated in the western part of the city, killing three civilians," he said, adding that three other civilians were killed and six wounded in a bombing elsewhere in the city.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Bombings and especially roadside bombs are a major threat to both Afghan security forces and civilians across the country.