Saturday, July 24, 2010

Search Under Way for United States Soldiers in Afghanistan

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Search under way for US soldiers

The only other soldier known to have been captured in Afghanistan is Bowe Bergdahl in 2009

Nato has launched a full-scale search operation after two US servicemen went missing in eastern Afghanistan's Logar province.

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) confirmed the news on Saturday, saying the two soldiers had departed their compound in Kabul City in a vehicle on Friday afternoon and did not return.

"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 captured soldiers, but US officials told The Associated Press news agency that the soldiers are Americans.

A Taliban spokesman has denied that his group was behind the disappearance of the soldiers, though earlier in the day he had contacted media agencies with descriptions of the soldiers and the equipment they were carrying.

Speaking to the AFP news agency by telephone from an undisclosed location, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban's eastern Afghanistan spokesman, said: "So far, we are not aware of it and cannot confirm this".

'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."

Gul said the soldiers were captured following a shootout with the Taliban.

'$200,000 reward'

Al Jazeera's James Bays, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said the US has offered a $200,000 reward for information about the captured Americans.

"Military vehicles are reading out messages through loud speakers to the local people, offering a reward of $200,000 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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