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Missing U.S. Navy service member confirmed dead in Afghanistan

NATO says his remains were recovered Sunday after an extensive search. The 30-year-old father of two went missing Friday with a second American, who is believed to be held by the Taliban.

July 28, 2010|By Laura King, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan — One of two American servicemen who disappeared last week in a dangerous area south of the Afghan capital has been confirmed dead, the Western military said Tuesday.

The headline on an earlier version of this article said the missing man was a Navy officer. He was a noncommissioned officer.

The Taliban had said that one of the two missing men was killed Friday in a firefight and the other taken captive, an account confirmed by Afghan officials in Lowgar province. American officials identified the pair as U.S. Navy personnel, but did not disclose their unit or assignment.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that the dead serviceman's remains were recovered Sunday "after an extensive search." It was not clear how the body was found and retrieved; a local Taliban faction initially had offered to exchange the remains for insurgent prisoners.

Relatives and the Pentagon identified the slain man as Justin McNeley, a 30-year-old noncommissioned Navy officer and a father of two who enlisted in 2001. His tour of duty was due to end next month. NcNeley's father is a deputy fire marshal in Encinitas; his mother lives in Kingman, Ariz.

The Pentagon on Tuesday identified the second man as Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, 25, of Renton, Wash. He is a recalled reservist serving as a culinary specialist, officials said. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization "holds the captors accountable" for his safety and proper treatment, officials said.

The two men left their base in Kabul on Friday afternoon in an armored sport utility vehicle and were last seen in Lowgar's Charkh district, known as an insurgent stronghold.

Western military officials have not explained what the two were doing alone in an area known to be unsafe even for heavily armed military convoys. A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, has said the movement's leadership would decide what to do with their captive, whom he said was being held in a secure location.

Although an intensive air-and-ground search continues, Afghan officials say hope is fading of finding any sign of the missing man, because the abductors have had more than three days to transport and hide him.

The only other American serviceman known to be held prisoner by the insurgents, Bowe Bergdahl, was thought to have been taken across the border to Pakistan soon after his capture 13 months ago in eastern Afghanistan. The Idaho native was an Army private at the time of his capture, but last month he was promoted in absentia to Army specialist.

Times staff writer Tony Perry in San Diego contributed to this report.

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