U.S.-led coalition forces have found the body of the final member of a special operations team whose whereabouts in Afghanistan have been unknown for two weeks. The U.S. military has rejected claims by insurgents that the commando was captured and beheaded, saying he was killed in action.
The body of the missing serviceman was located Sunday during a rescue operation in a mountainous region of northeastern Afghanistan.
U.S. military spokesman Colonel Jim Yonts confirmed the commando was part of a four-member special operations team that was lost two-weeks ago near the border with Pakistan. "One member of the team was located alive on July 3. Two members died in action before being located on July 4. The final team member was located during a combat search and rescue operation last night in Kunar province," he said.
Insurgents linked to the ousted Taleban regime claimed on Saturday they had captured the serviceman and beheaded him.
But Colonel Yonts rejects those claims as baseless. "The location and disposition of that body clearly indicates to us that this individual was killed in the firefight when that team was compromised on or about June 28. His death was clearly the result of a combat operation, not from some inhuman acts by some individuals," he said.
A U.S. helicopter sent to rescue the team was shot down, killing all 16 people on board.
In a separate development, an intensive search is underway for four men described as "dangerous enemy combatants" who escaped early Monday from the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan at Bagram Airfield.
The detention center at Bagram houses hundreds of militant suspects detained since U.S.-led coalition forces overthrew the Taleban in late 2001.
Taleban militants in Afghanistan have stepped up their attacks in the run-up to parliamentary elections set for September.