July 26, 2010— -- One of the two Navy sailors who disappeared after leaving his Kabul base last week has been found dead and his body has been flown back to Kabul, according to an Afghan government spokesman.
The U.S. military says it cannot confirm the report, but does acknowledge that one of the missing sailors is believed to be in Taliban custody. Insurgents claim he has been taken to a "safe place."
Neither of the sailors, who disappeared Friday, have been identified.
Local officials also located the sailors' Land Cruiser on Sunday, according to Logar province spokesman Din Mohammad Darwesh, and it was flown back to Kabul on a NATO plane.
Officials with the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan have declined to say what the sailors were doing driving alone at night in an area widely known to be controlled by insurgents, but they acknowledge the two broke regulations in doing so.
The two sailors found themselves in the Charkh district of Logar after dark on Friday. They stopped in the bazaar and continued on, according to Afghan intelligence officials and local residents. At some point insurgents ambushed their white armored Land Cruiser, trying to take them alive.
Residents say the two resisted and a firefight followed. Eventually the two were overwhelmed. It's not clear when one of the sailors died, but his body was found on Sunday, according to Darwesh.
The U.S. has launched a search on the ground and from the air, "using every asset in our inventory," according to spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.
By Saturday afternoon American soldiers began to create checkpoints and searched cars for the two men. The U.S. also distributed posters with the two men's faces, offering up to $20,000 for their safe return.
The incident is the first of its kind since Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was nabbed by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan as he walked outside his small base. U.S. officials believe -- although have failed to confirm -- that he is being held across the border in Pakistan, where the U.S. military cannot openly operate.