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American rescued in Afghanistan

U.S. forces free an Army Corps of Engineers worker, who had been seized by militants in August.

October 23, 2008|The Associated Press

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — U.S. Special Forces soldiers freed a kidnapped American working for the Army Corps of Engineers in a daring nighttime operation that was the first known hostage rescue by American forces in Afghanistan.

The American, whose name was not released, was abducted in mid-August and had been held in a growing insurgent stronghold 30 miles west of Kabul, the Afghan capital, U.S. military officials said. They said several insurgents were killed in last week's mission to free him.

Taliban militants have kidnapped dozens of international aid workers, journalists and other foreigners and have demanded large ransoms or the release of imprisoned Taliban fighters. Increasingly aggressive crime syndicates have also raked in money by kidnapping wealthy Afghans and foreigners and demanding ransoms.

Hostage rescues are difficult and rarely attempted. Only two other such missions are known to have occurred, both in 2007. In one, both Italian captives were wounded in a raid by Italian commandos.

Officials declined to reveal many details of the latest case, saying they did not want to compromise military tactics or the man's safety.

Three U.S. military officials said Special Forces troops found the kidnappers' hideaway in the Nirkh district of Wardak province, but would not specify how. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

The work of the Army Corps of Engineers on road building and projects that provide clean water and power helps extend the reach of the Afghan government and stimulates economic growth.

"This guy didn't have any money at all. It was like a personal life mission for him to help others," said Bruce J. Huffman, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan.

"We all felt sick about it, because he was never going to be able to pay a ransom. He's over here helping people and they're trying to make a buck off him."

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