G.I.'s Recover Bodies of 2 on Seal Team in Afghanistan
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By CARLOTTA GALL and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: July 5, 2005
KABUL, Afghanistan, July 4 - American forces have recovered the bodies of
two members of a four-man Navy Seal reconnaissance team that was reported
missing last week after coming under hostile fire in a mountainous region of
eastern Afghanistan, a senior Defense Department official said Monday.
The defense official, as well as other Pentagon and military officials in
Afghanistan and Washington, declined to provide details of where and how the
two bodies had been found, and declined to identify the men publicly until
family members have been notified.
News of the deaths, which were first reported by the British Broadcasting
Corporation, came as there were conflicting reports about the location of
one of the other members of the Special Operations team. The governor of
Kunar Province, where the team was when it was reported missing, said Monday
that a Seal commando was reported to be alive and in the hands of Afghan
But American officials in Washington said the governor's remarks, which gave
rise to hopes that a second member of the team had been found alive,
actually referred to the one team member who was rescued Saturday and flown
to safety on Sunday, still leaving one member unaccounted for. "What we have
here is a time lag in the reporting," a senior defense official said.
The governor, Asadullah Wafa, cautioned that he was still trying to verify
the report but indicated that he believed it was separate from the report of
the first Seal commando who was rescued. According to the new report, he
said that the sailor was being cared for by villagers, and that Afghan
soldiers and policemen were trying to reach the remote village to rescue
him. "There is a report; we don't know if it is true yet," he said.
The four-man team had been out of contact in the rugged mountains of eastern
Afghanistan since heavy fighting on Tuesday. A MH-47 Chinook helicopter sent
in that day to extract them after the team radioed for help crashed,
apparently after it was struck by hostile fire, killing all 16 Navy and Army
personnel on board.
The crash was the single largest combat loss for the American forces since
the war in Afghanistan started in late 2001, and this is the first time that
American officials acknowledged that a unit had disappeared in the country.
Yet in a blow to the local community, as many as 17 people, women and
children among them, were reported killed in a American airstrike on a
compound in continuing fighting in Kunar Province on Friday. The United
States military conceded in a statement that civilians had been killed in
the airstrike and said that it deeply regretted the loss of innocent lives,
but that it had been aiming at a known militant base.
"U.S. forces conducted an air strike against a terrorist compound in Kunar
Province with precision-guided munitions that resulted in the deaths of an
unknown number of enemy terrorists and noncombatants," the statement said.
"The targeted compound was a known operating base for terrorist attacks in
Kunar Province as well as a base for a medium-level terrorist leader."
"U.S. forces regret the loss of innocent lives and follow stringent rules of
engagement specifically to ensure that noncombatants are safeguarded," the
statement said. "However, when enemy forces move their families into the
locations where they conduct terrorist operations, they put these innocent
civilians at risk."
The American military command in Kabul issued a statement on Monday
confirming that one of the Seal team members had been located, was in stable
condition, and had been taken to Bagram Air Base for medical treatment. But
the statement gave no details about the fate of the three other team
Two defense officials in Washington said the sailor was well enough to
debrief military officials there on how the original mission of the Seal
reconnaissance team - to scout out suspected pockets of Taliban or Al Qaeda
fighters - had gone awry.
The officials in Washington all spoke on the condition of anonymity, given
the nature of the search-and-rescue operation by hundreds of American forces
in one of the most forbidding areas of the country.
Mr. Wafa, the Kunar governor, said that the Seal commando who was found
Saturday had also been taken in by local villagers. He said he was not
surprised that villagers had sheltered and returned the Americans, because,
he said, most Afghans were happy with the American presence in Afghanistan.
"Just a few enemies are against them," he said.
Carlotta Gall reported from Kabul for this article and Eric Schmitt from