One of two U.S. sailors missing in Afghanistan since last week has been confirmed dead and his body recovered, a NATO spokesman said Tuesday.
The search continues for the other missing sailor, said Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a spokesman for NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The two Navy personnel went missing Friday in the eastern province of Logar, after an armored sport utility vehicle was seen driving into a Taliban-held area. NATO officials were unable to say what they were doing in such a dangerous part of eastern Afghanistan.
The Taliban have said they killed one of the two men in a firefight and captured the other.
Jim Kerr, a Colorado legislator from the Denver suburb of Littleton, said the sailor killed was his wife’s nephew, Justin McNeley, 30. He said the family learned of his death Monday. He said McNeley’s mother is in Kingman, Arizona, but declined to give her name.
Kerr told The Denver Post that McNeley, a noncommissioned officer and father of two sons, was due to return to the U.S. in August.
The Taliban have said the captured sailor is in a “safe place” where he will not be found.
In a statement, the NATO-led command said the body was recovered Sunday after an extensive search and that the coalition “holds the captors accountable for the safety and proper treatment of our missing service member.”
The only other American service member in Taliban captivity is Spc. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, who disappeared June 30, 2009, in Paktika province, also in eastern Afghanistan. That area is heavily infiltrated by the Haqqani network, which has deep links to al-Qaida. Bergdahl has since appeared on videos posted on Taliban websites confirming his captivity.
New York Times reporter David Rohde was also kidnapped in Logar province while trying to meet with a Taliban commander. He and an Afghan colleague escaped in June 2009 after seven months in captivity, most of it spent in Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.
Hundreds of fliers, with reprinted photos of the two sailors, have been distributed throughout Logar province where NATO troops were stopping vehicles, searching them and those inside. NATO has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the surviving sailor’s location.
Separately, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Tuesday that a British soldier, who was serving with a task force working to counter homemade bombs, died Monday in a blast in the Sangin district of Helmand province in what may have been a case of “friendly fire.”
The ministry said a smoke screen was requested to allow the soldiers to work safely, and “it is believed that one of the smoke shells may have fallen short of its intended target.”
Also in the south, insurgents launched two rockets that struck the Zabul provincial governor’s house Tuesday night, according to the governor’s spokesman Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar. The governor escaped injury, but one girl was killed and two other children were injured, he said. A third rocket missed the house.
In the relatively peaceful northeastern province of Parwan, insurgents killed six Afghan construction workers and kidnapped a government official, NATO said.
The construction workers were driving through Siagerd district Monday when they came under fire from insurgents. Afghan police responded and drove back the militants, who kidnapped the district attorney general as they fled, NATO said.
Taliban insurgents regularly target civilians they see as complicit with the government, including those working on government-funded projects like roads and public buildings.
While the deputy provincial police chief confirmed that the dead were civilians, Faqir Ahmad said they comprised two families driving to nearby Bamiyan province for a vacation. Ahmad said two women and one child were among the dead. He did not have any information on whether there were construction workers involved.
Ahmad said the district official was released the same day through negotiations with insurgents.
Also in the east, a joint Afghan and coalition force captured a midlevel Taliban commander Monday night in Paktika province, NATO said. According to the coalition, the commander operates mainly in Mata Khan, planning bomb attacks on coalition convoys. Ammunition, bomb-making equipment and a bag of Pakistani, Afghan and U.S. cash were found at the scene, NATO said.
In neighboring Paktia province, a joint force carried out multiple precision strikes against a senior commander of the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network. NATO said it had not yet confirmed the death of the commander, who controls fighter camps in the area and is in regular contact with top Haqqani leadership across the border in Pakistan.
In other violence, the Afghan Interior Ministry said five militants were killed and 10 others were wounded Monday during a joint Afghan and international forces operation in Chardara district of Kunduz province in the north; and four militants were killed as they were planting a roadside bomb in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province in the south. The Afghan Defense Ministry said five militants were killed during a gunbattle with Afghan soldiers Monday in the Muqur district of Ghazni province in the east.