KABUL, Afghanistan — An American doctor kidnapped by the Taliban was rescued Sunday by Afghan and coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan, officials said. At least six people were killed, including a U.S. service member, and two Taliban leaders were arrested during the rescue.
The American, Dr. Dilip Joseph, and two Afghan doctors were abducted Wednesday as they traveled to a clinic in the Sorobi District of eastern Afghanistan, about an hour outside of the capital, Kabul, said the district police chief, Naqeebullah Khan.
The rescue by Afghan and U.S. forces took place early Sunday in Laghman province after coalition officials received reports that the doctor was in imminent danger of injury or death.
The U.S. service member who died in the operation was not identified Sunday. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would not say exactly how the man died, beyond that “the special operators who conducted this raid knew they were putting their lives on the line to free a fellow American from the enemy’s grip.”
Joseph is a medical adviser for Morningstar Development, a nonprofit organization based in Colorado that focuses on economic and community development in Afghanistan.
“Today’s mission exemplifies our unwavering commitment to defeating the Taliban,” said Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, who ordered the mission. “I’m proud of the American and Afghan forces that planned, rehearsed and successfully conducted this operation.”
Kidnappings of government officials and Westerners are a common source of money for criminal organizations as well as the Taliban. In many cases, people kidnapped by the Taliban are taken across the border to Pakistan, where it becomes extremely difficult to track them.
The abductions occurred about 25 miles from a stretch of highway heading east from the capital toward Jalalabad. The highway itself is considered safe during the day, but travel is much more dangerous in the areas off the main road.
Kidnappings and Taliban activity are frequent occurrences, despite international efforts to control the violence. The road is occasionally attacked by insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades at passing fuel tankers.
In the case of Joseph, the kidnappers were believed to have been demanding a $100,000 ransom.
As part of the rescue attempt, security forces instructed the negotiators to take the ransom money with them to determine the location of the kidnappers, said Dr. Said Jan, the director of the public health clinic in Sorobi, where the abduction occurred. Once the location was determined, Afghan and coalition troops started the rescue operation and killed at least six Taliban fighters and arrested two leaders, Shah Gul and Raza Gul, local officials said.