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Central & South Asia
Taliban holds missing US soldier
Afghan armed group says one of the two soldiers is dead while the other is being held.
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2010 17:19 GMT


James Bays reports from Kabul on a massive hunt for the two missing US troops

Taliban sources have told Al Jazeera they are holding one of the two US servicemen who went missing in eastern Afghanistan's Logar province, and say the other is dead.

The two servicemen went missing after they departed their compound in Kabul City on Friday afternoon and did not return, prompting a massive seach operation, Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said on Saturday.  

"The unit dispatched vehicles and rotary-winged assets to search for them and their vehicle, and the search is ongoing," Isaf said in a statement.

Isaf did not specify the nationality of the missing soldiers, but US officials told the Associated Press news agency (AP) that they are American.

'Taliban shootout'

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, blamed the Taliban for the disappearances. He said the Taliban had 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." He says the men were then ambushed.

There have been unconfirmed reports that the Taliban have offered to hand over the body of the dead American in exchange for the release of prisoners.

'$20,000 reward'

Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said the US has offered a $20,000 reward for information about the missing men.

"Military vehicles are reading out messages through loud speakers to the local people, offering a reward of $20,000 for any information on the whereabouts of the two men," he said.

"What is puzzling though is why two US servicemen would set out from Kabul and then end up in southern Logar province, over an hour's drive.

"Normally you'd expect military personnel who are making that journey either to make it in an armoured convoy or to travel by air by a helicopter."

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.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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