US soldiers have killed seven Taliban fighters in a pre-dawn raid to rescue a kidnapped American doctor in eastern Afghanistan, the NATO force in the war-torn country said.
The mission was launched when intelligence showed that Dr Dilip Joseph was in “imminent danger of injury or death”, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement on Sunday.
A US service member was also killed in Sunday’s rescue mission, White House officials said.
“Yesterday (Saturday), our special operators in Afghanistan rescued an American citizen in a mission that was characteristic of the extraordinary courage, skill and patriotism that our troops show every day,” the White House said in a statement.
“Tragically, we lost one of our special operators in this effort. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, just as we must always honor our troops and military families.”
Joseph was abducted on December 5 by Taliban fighters in the Surobi district of Kabul province.
“[The] mission exemplifies our unwavering commitment to defeating the Taliban,” General John Allen, the commander of US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan, said.
“I’m proud of the American and Afghan forces that planned, rehearsed and successfully conducted this operation. Thanks to them, Dr Joseph will soon be rejoining his family and loved ones.”
Joseph was now “undergoing evaluations”, the statement said, without giving further details.
A security source told AFP news agency that the doctor had been involved in building clinics in Afghanistan but details of his capture were not immediately available.
Hazrat Mohammad Haqbeen, the district governor of Surobi told AFP that the man was kidnapped along with an Afghan colleague who was released in return for a ransom earlier in the week.
And “today the American national was freed in an operation. We don’t know the details of the operation,” Haqbeen said.
He said the men were kidnapped in Surobi but were held in a village in the Qarghayi district of the neighbouring province of Laghman. The governor said the US citizen was visiting a clinic when captured.
An ISAF spokesman said the rescue had been launched when multiple intelligence sources indicated that he was in immediate danger. “We felt we had to act now,” he said.
Seven of the doctor’s captors were killed in the operation, which involved combined US and Afghan forces, he said.
He gave no further details of where the doctor had been held or on the rescue operation itself, saying they could be announced later in the day.
Surobi outside Kabul had been under the control of French troops until April this year, when responsibility for security was handed to Afghan forces as part of France’s accelerated withdrawal from the country.
France ended its combat mission in Afghanistan last month, two years before allied nations contributing to the 100,000-strong US-led NATO force are due to depart.
Westerners are a prize target for the Taliban, who have waged an 11-year armed struggle since being toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001. Armed groups not linked to the Taliban are also involved in the kidnappings.
In June, NATO special forces rescued two foreign women working for a Swiss-based charity who had been kidnapped and held in a cave in Afghanistan’s remote and mountainous northern Badakhshan province. Five captors were killed in the raid.