U.S. Searches For Missing Naval Personnel

U.S. and Afghan forces have expanded their manhunt for two U.S. naval personnel. The sailors departed their compound, traveled to a dangerous region of Afghanistan called Logar Province, and did not return. A Taliban spokesman says the two were ambushed — one killed, and one captured.

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And I'm Don Gonyea.

Over the weekend, two U.S. Navy personnel in Kabul left their base in an armored vehicle. Later, Afghan officials reported an ambush 60 miles away, stating that one of the Americans was killed and the other captured. The attack took place in Logar Province, in an area controlled by the Taliban. NPR's Quil Lawrence sent this report from Kabul.

QUIL LAWRENCE: It's still not clear why the two men would have ventured alone and without apparent air cover into Logar, which is widely considered to be under Taliban control. Local government officials reported that the Americans ignored warnings from police and were ambushed.

U.S. officials still will not confirm what happened to the men, only saying they are missing and admitting that their car was discovered in Logar. Even the Taliban would not confirm details for almost two days.

Mr. ZABIHULLAH�MUJAHED (Spokesman, Taliban): (Foreign language spoken)

LAWRENCE: Speaking with NPR by phone this morning, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah�Mujahed said that one of the men was killed and that the body, along with the surviving serviceman, are now in what he called a distant, safe location inside Afghanistan. Mujahed would not say whether any offer of negotiations or prisoner exchange had been made.

American officials say they are unaware of any prisoner swap offer, and it's usually American policy not to negotiate with organizations labeled as terrorists. U.S. officials say they are not making statements out of concern of jeopardizing any rescue attempt.

Head of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen, was in Kabul yesterday.

Admiral MIKE MULLEN (Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff): We will do all we can, everything we can. We've got a large number of forces focused on the return of these two individuals.

LAWRENCE: There is currently one other U.S. serviceman believed to be a captive of the Taliban. Private Bowe Bergdahl was captured in June of 2009. The latest video showing Bergdahl alive was released by the Taliban in April.

American forces, alongside Afghan soldiers, have reported intense operations in Logar. They say they've captured two Taliban fighters, but so far no word about the missing men.

Quil Lawrence, NPR News, Kabul.

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