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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
US finds body of missing commando
US forces search for the Taleban close to the Pakistan border
Hundreds of soldiers had been searching for the missing man
The body of a US special forces soldier who disappeared in Afghanistan has been found, the US military has confirmed.

The US said all indications were that the commando died in fighting, dismissing a claim by the Taleban that they had captured and killed him.

The commando was part of an elite four-man Navy Seals unit that went missing in a mountainous area of eastern Konar province on 28 June.

Two members of the team were later found dead, while a third was rescued.

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Hundreds of US soldiers and Afghan forces had been scouring the mountains to find the missing commando.

'Not disfigured'

A US military spokesman said the body of the fourth soldier had been found on Sunday in the same area where two others had been located last weekend.

This individual was never in [Taleban] custody, he was never defamed or disgraced
Col James Yonts,
US military spokesman

He described it as difficult terrain. US troops had had to search the area again.

At the weekend, a man who said he spoke for the Taleban, Latifullah Hakimi, said the missing commando had been beheaded in the Shegal district of Kunar province. However, he offered no proof for the claim.

The US spokesman said the serviceman's body had not been disfigured in any way.

'Huge blow'

A US Chinook helicopter carrying reinforcements to the area in response to a call for help from the commandos was shot down on 28 June, killing all 16 soldiers on board.

It was the largest number of deaths US forces have suffered in a single incident in Afghanistan since toppling the Taleban in 2001.

The BBC's Andrew North in Kabul says the American casualties have been a huge blow for US forces in Afghanistan.

He says it is clear US commanders are having to change their strategy to deal with the militant threat in the south and east.

They had been hoping to be able to withdraw troops - but now they plan to bring in an extra infantry battalion, about 1,000 troops, before elections in parliamentary September.

The downing of the helicopter was followed by a US bombing raid in Konar province which, the provincial governor said, left at least 17 civilians, including women and children, dead.

There has been a sharp rise in recent months in activity by the Taleban and their allies, who have vowed to disrupt the elections.

Over the weekend suspected Taleban fighters killed 10 Afghan policemen in Helmand province. Six of them were beheaded. A pro-government cleric was also killed in Paktika province.

In neighbouring Paktia province, at least 13 pro-government militiamen died in a land mine blast. It was unclear whether the mine was old or freshly laid by insurgents.


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