Search for sailors intensifies as Taliban say they killed one
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban claimed Sunday that they killed a U.S. sailor and kidnapped another as NATO forces bolstered a massive search for the servicemen, who disappeared two days earlier in an area held by the militants.
The coalition force set up checkpoints and distributed fliers with the sailors’ pictures and is offering thousands of dollars in rewards for their return.
There were conflicting reports about whether the body of one of the two had been recovered.
U.S. and NATO officials confirmed that two members of the U.S. Navy disappeared Friday in the eastern province of Logar after an armored sport utility vehicle was seen driving into a Taliban-held area. NATO officials were unable to say what they were doing in such a dangerous part of eastern Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid also said the pair drove into an area under insurgent control, prompting a brief gunfight in which one American was killed and the other was captured. He said both were taken to a “safe area” and “are in the hands of the Taliban.”
The sailors’ heavily reinforced white Land Cruiser has been recovered, according to a security official in Logar who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information.
Another local official, Abdul Wali, the deputy head of the provincial governing council, said the Taliban sent a message through intermediaries offering to hand over the body of one sailor in exchange for jailed insurgents.
He said local authorities told the Taliban, “‘Let’s talk about the one that is still alive.’”
He said the insurgents indicated they would have to talk to superiors before making any deal.
Hundreds of fliers with reprinted photos of the missing sailors have been distributed throughout Logar province, where NATO troops were stopping motorists, frisking people, peering inside vehicles and searching trunks.
“Our latest, accurate information reports are that they are still in the area,” said Din Mohammed Darwesh, spokesman for the provincial governor of Logar.
He said the governor’s office was upset because the two Americans left their base without notifying Afghan security forces in Logar, which is the normal protocol.
“This was an abnormal situation,” Darwesh said.
The visiting chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters Sunday that though he did not have all the details about the missing servicemen, “from what I know right now, this is an unusual circumstance.”
Mullen said he could not comment on the Taliban claim that one American was killed and the other captured. He said the U.S. was doing all it could to “return to American hands anybody who has been captured or killed.”
“There’s a tremendous amount of effort going on to find them.”