MSNBC | 24 July 2010
NATO says search underway for 2 missing service men
Also, five American troops died Saturday in bombings in the south where international forces are stepping up the fight against the insurgents.
A NATO statement Saturday said the two service members left their compound the previous day in Kabul but did not return.
The statement did not identify the pair by nationality but U.S. officials said they were American.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.
The military has dispatched vehicles and rotary-winged aircraft to search for them and their vehicle.
Local official: ‘They came down the wrong road’
Samer Gul, district chief of Charkh district in Logar province, said Saturday that a four-wheel drive armored vehicle was seen Friday night by a guard working for the district chief’s office. The guard tried to flag down the vehicle, carrying a driver and a passenger, but it kept going, Gul said.
“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.”
The second group of Taliban tried to stop the vehicle, but when it didn’t, insurgents opened fire and the two occupants in the vehicle shot back, he said.
NATO said a search is under way for the missing service members. According to Gul, one may have been killed and the other taken hostage by the Taliban.
“Maybe they wanted to go to Paktia province or to the American base, but they came down the wrong road toward Charkh,” Gul said. “They didn’t pay any attention to the police. Otherwise we could have kept them from going into an insecure area and now this unfortunate incident has happened.”
Military officials could not confirm the district chief’s account.
The only U.S. service member known to be in Taliban captivity is Spc. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho who disappeared June 30, 2009 in Paktika province of eastern Afghanistan. He has since appeared on videos posted on Taliban websites confirming his captivity.
Mohammad Nasir Medaruz, director of radio station in Logar called Meli Pegham, or “national message,” said he received a phone call from coalition officials who asked that he broadcast a message offering $10,000 for information about the whereabouts of each missing service member.
“I told them that Logar is not a safe area and if I broadcast that, I could get attacked,” Medaruz said.
He said that if the military officials paid him, he would broadcast the information but say that it was an “advertisement.”
He said he did not broadcast the information, but another radio station, sponsored by the military in Logar, did air the message.
The five troops died Saturday in roadside bombings — four in a single blast, NATO said in a statement without specifying nationalities nor providing further details. A fifth service member was killed in a separate attack in the south, NATO said.
U.S. officials confirmed all five were Americans. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity under rules regarding casualty identification.
The latest deaths bring to 75 the number of international troops killed in Afghanistan this month, including 56 Americans.
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