Missing SEAL is rescued 5 days later

Navy commando in Afghanistan found

no details are provided

Three others still listed as missing

Pentagon releases names of 16 troops killed in copter crash

July 04, 2005|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

KABUL, Afghanistan - One member of a four-man Navy SEAL reconnaissance team has been rescued after his group was reported missing in a mountainous region of eastern Afghanistan last week, a senior Defense Department official said yesterday.

No details were disclosed about how the commando evaded Taliban fighters for about five days. Pentagon and military officials in Washington and Afghanistan declined to release details of the rescue until the status of the three other members of the Special Operations team, still listed as missing, could be determined.

News of the rescue came as Afghanistan's defense minister confirmed a sharp upsurge in activity by insurgents and foreign fighters, and said that the rebels were better armed than in past years.

Gunmen critically wounded a senior Muslim cleric, Maulavi Muhammad Nabi Musbah, in Kandahar province in the south yesterday. It was the second such attack on a pro-government religious leader in the province in a little more than a month and another blow to the Afghan government, which is seeking to undermine the religious basis of the Taliban insurgency.

Other clashes were reported, including two in which U.S. forces were attacked during patrols in Kandahar in the past two days. U.S. and Afghan forces killed two gunmen, wounded another and captured two more in a shootout Saturday.

The senior U.S. Defense Department official said the sailor who was rescued was in good enough health to provide the U.S. military with a report of how the long-range reconnaissance mission had gone awry.

The SEAL reconnaissance team, which called for help Tuesday while on a mission to find Taliban fighters or other insurgents, was declared missing after a Special Operations Chinook helicopter sent to extract it crashed. The helicopter appeared to have been shot down. The Pentagon has released the names of the 16 people aboard who were killed. The crash is the single largest combat loss for U.S. forces since the war in Afghanistan started in 2001 and is the first time U.S. officials have acknowledged that a unit has disappeared in the country.

The events all occurred in Kunar province, a rugged area in northeastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border.

The fighting was the latest in a recent string of battles against larger and more seasoned rebel forces, U.S. and Afghan officials said.

Taliban members have joined forces with insurgents loyal to other anti-American commanders and with members of al-Qaida, and have increased their efforts in recent months to attack U.S. and Afghan government forces, according to an assessment by the Afghan defense minister, Gen. Abdur Rahim Wardak.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Wardak said the sudden escalation of the insurgency since the snow melted and the mountain passes opened had been greater than the traditional spring increase in activity.

"Based on intelligence, there is a regrouping of al-Qaida, and it seems they are going to pay more attention to Afghanistan," he said. "We are running into more foreign fighters here and there," he said.

Afghan and U.S. forces have captured foreign fighters and foreigners who were involved in attacks or have acknowledged plotting them. Most have been Pakistanis, but there have also been Arabs, possibly including two dead suicide bombers, and fighters from Russian or Central Asian republics.

Insurgents appear to have more money, better weapons and more advanced technology this year, he said, including remote-controlled bombs, high explosives and possibly shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles, one of which might have been used against the helicopter that crashed Tuesday.

Al-Qaida, which used Afghanistan as a sanctuary and to train large numbers of recruits in the 1980s and '90s, seems to be trying to return to its old haunts, possibly because of the symbolic value Afghanistan retains for it, Wardak said.

Helicopter deaths

The Pentagon released the names of the 16 troops killed last week when an MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in eastern Afghanistan.

Seven soldiers were assigned to the Army's 3rd Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Hunter Army Air Field, Ga.:

Staff Sgt. Shamus O. Goare, 29, of Danville, Ohio.

Chief Warrant Officer Corey J. Goodnature, 35, of Clarks Grove, Minn.

Sgt. Kip A. Jacoby, 21, of Pompano Beach, Fla.

Sgt. 1st Class Marcus V. Muralles, 33, of Shelbyville, Ind.

Maj. Stephen C. Reich, 34, of Washington Depot, Conn.

Sgt. 1st Class Michael L. Russell, 31, of Stafford, Va.

Chief Warrant Officer Chris J. Scherkenbach, 40, of Jacksonville, Fla.

One soldier was assigned to the Army's Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), Fort Campbell, Ky.:

Master Sgt. James W. Ponder III, 36, of Franklin, Tenn.

Five sailors who died in the crash were assigned to SEAL Team 10, Virginia Beach, Va.:

Chief Petty Officer Jacques J. Fontan, 36, of New Orleans, La.

Lt. Cmdr. Erik S. Kristensen, 33, of San Diego.

Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffery A. Lucas, 33, of Corbett, Ore.

Lt. Michael M. McGreevy Jr., 30, of Portville, N.Y.

Petty Officer 1st Class Jeffrey S. Taylor, 30, of Midway, W.Va.

Three sailors were assigned to SEAL Delivery Vehicle Team One, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii:

Senior Chief Petty Officer Daniel R. Healy, 36, of Exeter, N.H.

Petty Officer 2nd Class James Suh, 28, of Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric S. Patton, 22, of Boulder City, Nev.

Associated Press

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