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U.S., Afghan forces rescue American doctor from Taliban

He and three Afghans are safe after being kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan. One rescuer is killed in the operation.

December 10, 2012|By David Zucchino and Hashmat Baktash, Los Angeles Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — American and Afghan forces rescued an American doctor who had been kidnapped by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan, military authorities announced Sunday. Officials in Washington later confirmed that one of the rescuers was killed in the operation.

The doctor, identified as Dilip Joseph, a U.S. citizen working for a nonprofit group based in Colorado, was rescued along with two Afghan colleagues and an Afghan driver, according to international forces and local officials.

In a statement, President Obama praised "our special operators in Afghanistan [who] rescued an American citizen [Saturday] in a mission that was characteristic of the extraordinary courage, skill and patriotism that our troops show every day."

He also extended "thoughts and prayers" to the family of "one of our special operators" who participated in the rescue. "He gave his life for his fellow Americans," the president said.

The doctors and driver were abducted by gunmen Wednesday afternoon after they had visited a rural clinic in Jegdalek village in Kabul province's Sarobi district, east of the capital, said Hazrat Mohammed Haqbin, the district governor.

The captives were moved to Qarghayi district in neighboring Laghman province, according to Sayed Jan, health director of the Sarobi district. The kidnappers demanded $100,000 for the captives' safe return, Jan said.

Naqibullah Khan, Sarobi's chief of police, said U.S. special operations forces and Afghan police and troops launched a rescue operation after receiving information that the captives were likely to be harmed. Afghan police managed to capture the insurgents' commander, Shah Gul, who told them the captives' location, according to Jan.

During the operation, U.S. and Afghan forces killed six insurgents and detained two kidnappers in addition to Gul, Jan said.

Joseph is a medical advisor for Morning Star Development, an American nonprofit, according to Sarobi health officials. A statement from the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, said Joseph was undergoing a medical evaluation Sunday.

The Sarobi district lies along the main highway linking Kabul, the Afghan capital, to the eastern city of Jalalabad. The road is considered relatively safe, at least during daytime. It is patrolled by police and soldiers from Afghanistan's 201st Corps, with checkpoints at regular intervals.

The kidnapping occurred on a rural road far from the highway, local officials said. Kidnappings are common in Afghanistan, with both foreigners and wealthy Afghans targeted, usually for large ransoms.

"Today's mission exemplifies our unwavering commitment to defeating the Taliban," Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of ISAF forces, who approved the rescue operation, said in a statement. "I'm proud of the American and Afghan forces that planned, rehearsed and successfully conducted this operation. Thanks to them, Dr. Joseph will soon be joining his family and loved ones."

david.zucchino@latimes.com

Baktash is a special correspondent.

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