Taliban captures two US soldiers
The Taliban has captured two US soldiers in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) confirmed on Saturday that two of its soldiers were captured. "Two International Security Assistance Force servicemembers departed their compound in Kabul City in a vehicle on Friday afternoon and did not return," Isaf said in a statement. Isaf did not specify the nationality of the captured soldiers, but US officials told the Associated Press that the soldiers are Americans. A Taliban spokesman who earlier announced the capture also described the soldiers as American. He told the Reuters news agency that three US soldiers were initially captured, but that one of them has died.
The governor of the province told Al Jazeera that he believes the missing Americans work for a Provincial Reconstruction Team, a military-led development team. Samer Gul, the administrative head of Charkh district in Logar, said the Taliban noticed the soldiers when their vehicle passed through a market. "They stopped in the main bazaar of Charkh district. The Taliban saw them in the bazaar," Gul said. "They didn't touch them in the bazaar, but notified other Taliban that a four-wheel vehicle was coming their way."
Gul said the soldiers were captured following a shootout with the Taliban.
A journalist from Reuters reported hearing local radio stations in Logar broadcasting US statements that offered a $20,000 reward for information about the captured Americans. Logar is southeast of Kabul, the Afghan capital, in an area that has seen growing insurgent activity over the last few years..Captures of foreign soldiers are rare in Afghanistan. The only other soldier known to have been captured is Bowe Bergdahl, an American who was captured by the Taliban in Paktika province in June 2009. Paktika is near Logar in eastern Afghanistan. His fate and whereabouts remain unclear, though he appeared in a video released by the Taliban in April.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban militants kidnapped two American service members who were driving a civilian vehicle in a particularly dangerous region of Logar Province south of Kabul on Friday, according to officials and local residents.
The abduction prompted a wide manhunt by the American military, including searches by military helicopters and radio broadcasts of a $20,000 reward for information leading to their return.
Local officials in Logar began receiving unconfirmed reports late Saturday afternoon that one of the two Americans may have been killed, and that the other one was still alive, said Din Mohammed Darwish, the spokesman for the Logar provincial governor. A NATOofficial said that he did not know whether that was true.
The Taliban have reportedly claimed responsibility for abducting the two Americans, but Mr. Darwish said local officials knew little more. “We don’t know what their demands are,” he said.
News of the abduction came on the same day that five other American service members were killed in southern Afghanistan in two separate bomb attacks.
Fifty-six American troops have died in Afghanistan so far this month, according toicasualties.org, which tracks military fatalities. The toll for July is now close to the 60 United States troops who died last month, the largest number of American deaths in the nearly nine-year war.
In a terse statement, the American-led NATO military command said Saturday evening that the two missing Americans had left a compound in Kabul on Friday afternoon, but the statement did not address why they traveled to Logar.
The two service members had “departed their compound in Kabul City in a vehicle on Friday afternoon and did not return,” the statement said, adding that troops in military vehicles and helicopters were now searching for them.
Mr. Darwish, the governor’s spokesman, said the two Americans were dressed in civilian clothes, and were abducted while they were driving in an armored sport utility vehicle early Friday evening in the Charkh District of southern Logar Province, a Taliban hotbed.
“The area is very bad in terms of security,” he said. He said they were seized in an area locally known as Matani, inside Charkh, about 10 miles south of the provincial capital, Pul-i-Alam. The area is about 60 miles south of Kabul.
A NATO official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not say whether the service members’ trip was sanctioned by the military, or whether they had gone somewhere they were not supposed to.
The official did confirm that the two were American military service members, not civilians, nor members of a State Department provincial reconstruction team. But he said he did not know whether they were wearing military uniforms or civilian clothes.
Local residents said the Americans had been taken while they were driving in an armored S.U.V. They said that a local radio station broadcast that NATO forces were offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to their safe return.
The only American service member known to be in Taliban captivity is Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, of Idaho, who was captured in late June, 2009, in Paktika Province.
Military officials had initially reported that he had walked off his post in eastern Afghanistan. But in a video sent out by the Taliban, Private Bergdahl said he had been captured after he lagged behind during a patrol.