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Asia-pacific

Taliban claim to have captured US soldier

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-07-02

A Taliban commander has claimed that his militia captured a US soldier and three Afghan guards in Afghanistan's south-eastern Paktika province. US military officials said earlier that the soldier had been missing for three days.

AFP - A US soldier is believed to have been captured by insurgents in Afghanistan, the military said Thursday, as a commander for a hardline Taliban faction said his militia had the trooper.
   
It was believed to be the first time militants abducted an American soldier in Afghanistan since US troops were deployed to oust the Taliban regime in 2001 and then remained to fight a growing extremist insurgency.
   
"A US soldier who has been missing since June 30 from his assigned unit is believed to have been captured by militant forces," US military spokeswoman Captain Elizabeth Mathias told AFP.
   
She said it was the first time an American soldier had been captured in two to three years in either Iraq or Afghanistan but could not confirm it was the first such case for this country.
   
"We are using all of our available resources to find him and provide for his safe return."
   
Mathias could not give more information, including the province where the soldier went missing.
   
"We are not providing further details to protect the soldier's situation and well-being," she said.
   
But a commander of the Taliban's hardline Haqqani faction told an AFP reporter that his militia had captured a US trooper and three Afghans in the province of Paktika, which borders Pakistan.
   
"One of our commanders named Mawlawi Sangin has captured a coalition soldier along with his three Afghan guards in Yousuf Khail district of Paktika province," the commander, named only Bahram, told AFP.
   
"The coalition soldier has been taken to a safe place," he said.
   
The militia's leaders would likely issue demands for his release, said the commander who is known to the reporter.
   
"Our leaders have not decided on the fate of this soldier. They will decide on his fate and soon we will present video tapes of the coalition soldier and our demand to media," he said.
   
The US military has been hunting leaders of the Al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, which it has described as one of the "most lethal Taliban organisations".
   
The capture comes as nearly 4,000 newly deployed US Marines launched a major operation in the southern province of Helmand Thursday, pushing south to take control of Taliban strongholds ahead of August 20 presidential elections.
   
Insurgents have been behind several kidnappings in Afghanistan and have killed some of their hostages.
   
There are around 56,000 US soldiers operating in Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures, in the biggest deployment from one country helping to fight an insurgency led by the Taliban, with other Islamist factions involved.

Date created : 2009-07-02

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