By Mirwais Harooni
KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan Taliban said on Tuesday it had freed the remaining four of eight Turkish civilians detained last month, the Islamist group said in a statement, adding it hoped the gesture would improve ties with Ankara.
The eight were taken captive by the Taliban in Afghanistan's eastern Logar province when their helicopter was forced to make a "hard landing" last month. The first four were freed earlier this week.
"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan anticipates that relations with the Muslim nation of Turkey and its government will become close," the Taliban said in a statement, using the formal name for themselves.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the four had been handed over to Turkish officials and were en route to the embassy in Kabul, he told reporters in Ankara.
Two pilots from Russia and Kyrgyzstan were also aboard the Russian-made Mi-8 helicopter when poor weather forced it to land near the Pakistani border on April 21. The Taliban on Monday said they were still alive and their fate was yet to be decided.
NATO-member Turkey has close, longstanding ties with Afghanistan, having been one of the first countries almost a century ago to recognize Afghan independence from Britain in 1919 and shortly afterwards to establish diplomatic relations.
(Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay in Ankara, Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman)