NATO confirms death of 1 of 2 sailors missing in Afghanistan

By Heidi Vogt, AP
Tuesday, July 27, 2010

NATO: 1 missing sailor killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — 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 previously that they killed one of the two men in a firefight and captured the other.

Jim Kerr, a Colorado legislator from the south-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 make contact 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 missing sailors, have been distributed throughout Logar province where NATO troops were stopping vehicles, searching them and those inside. The fliers say a $20,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the sailors’ 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.


Associated Press Writer Judith Kohler contributed to this report from Denver.

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