Taliban want to trade sailor's body for live detainees held by US

LA Times:

A Taliban faction that said it had killed one U.S. serviceman and captured another offered to exchange the slain man's body for an unspecified number of insurgent prisoners, an Afghan official said Sunday.

The two Americans, identified by Western officials as U.S. Navy personnel, were last seen Friday in a dangerous part of Logar province, south of the Afghan capital. A massive ground and air search by NATO and Afghan forces was underway, with the men's photos plastered at military checkpoints and a reward offered for information about them.

Afghan officials in Logar said the two, who were driving an armored sport-utility vehicle, may have taken a wrong turn and accidentally ended up in a Taliban-held area. NATO has not disclosed why the pair traveled to Logar after leaving their base in Kabul, or said whether the trip was authorized by their superiors.

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First word of the insurgents' encounter with the Americans did not come directly from the Taliban's usual spokesmen but was relayed by Afghan authorities, who cited local intermediaries. By Sunday afternoon, though, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, reached by telephone, confirmed that one of the servicemen was being held "in a secure location" and the other was dead.

The two Americans disappeared in Charkh district, a hotbed of insurgent activity that is considered dangerous even for Afghan officials, let alone outsiders. It would be highly unusual for U.S. service members to travel alone and virtually unprotected in the area, and Afghan officials depicted their presence as an apparently unexpected bonanza for the local Taliban.

"They moved toward an insecure area without informing the authorities, and there they encountered the enemy," said Logar's police chief, Gen. Mohammad Mustafa Mosseini. He said one of the insurgents ambushed the Americans' vehicle on Friday with rocket-propelled grenades, killing one and capturing the other.

Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, said an insurgent patrol spotted the pair and tried to detain them, but that one was killed when they resisted. He did not provide details.

The insurgents' demand for an exchange was disclosed by the head of the provincial council in Logar, Abdul Hakim Sulaimankhil. NATO said it has had no contact with the purported captors.

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Their travel to the area without security is still inexplicable. I think the chances of the US doing a swap is remote. It would only lead to the Taliban attempting to take more hostages.

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