KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. Special Forces soldiers freed a kidnapped American working for the Army Corps of Engineers during a nighttime mission last week — a rare hostage rescue in a country where ransom abductions have become increasingly common.
The American, who had been working on U.S. government-funded infrastructure projects, was abducted in mid-August and had been held just 30 miles west of Kabul with no public notice of his abduction. The dangerous mission to free the U.S. contractor killed several insurgents, U.S. officials told The Associated Press.
Taliban militants have kidnapped several international aid workers and journalists in recent years and have been paid large ransoms or negotiated the release of imprisoned Taliban fighters in exchange.
But increasingly aggressive crime syndicates are also raking in big money by kidnapping wealthy Afghans and foreigners and demanding ransoms.
"This guy didn't have any money at all. It was like a personal life mission for him to help others," said Bruce J. Huffman, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan. "We all felt sick about it, because he was never going to be able to pay a ransom. He's over here helping people and they're trying to make a buck off him."
Hostage rescues are rarely attempted and difficult to pull off successfully. Not only could the hostage be killed by his abductors during the rescue, but U.S. forces could also accidentally shoot the hostage.
U.S. Special Forces were able to locate the kidnapper's hideaway in the Nirkh district of Wardak province, though U.S. military officials who spoke to AP about the rescue would not say how. Three U.S. officials offered some details on the rescue on condition they weren't identified because they weren't authorized to release the information.
But the three declined to give specific information, saying they didn't want to compromise tactics used in the rescue or further endanger Army Corps of Engineer personnel, who work on projects like road building and hydroelectric projects in Afghanistan's increasingly dangerous provinces.