Local Taliban commanders threatened on Thursday to kill a captured American soldier unless the US military stops operations in two districts of southeastern Afghanistan. The Taliban claimed last week to be holding the soldier, whom the US military earlier described as possibly being in enemy hands.
Abdullah Jalali, a spokesman for Taliban commander Mawlavi Sangin, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday that the soldier was healthy. He said the soldier would be killed unless the US stops airstrikes in Ghazni province's Giro district and Paktika province's Khoshamand district.
Jalali did not explain why the Taliban chose those areas, noting only that Giro has been heavily bombed. Spokeswoman Capt Elizabeth Mathias declined to comment on the demands but did say recent operations in Giro district this month did not involve bombings.
Neither district is in Helmand province, where Marines are currently conducting the largest US military operation in Afghanistan since the Taliban were toppled from power in 2001. Jalali said the final decision about the soldier's fate will be made by Taliban leader Mullah Omar.
The US military has said that the soldier was noticed missing during a routine check of the unit on June 30 and was "believed captured." The Taliban claimed on its Web site on July 6 that it was holding the soldier.
"Five days ago, a drunken American soldier who had come out of his garrison named Malakh was captured by mujahedeen. ... He is still with mujahedeen," said the report. The short web message did not elaborate on his whereabouts, nor did it provide any proof such as a photo.
The US military has said it intercepted communications in which insurgents talked about holding an American.
The soldier's body armor and weapon were found on the base, and US defense sources say he "just walked off" post with three Afghans after work. They say they have no explanation for why he left the base.
The military has not identified the soldier but say his family has been notified that he is missing. He is serving in an Army infantry unit assigned to a combat outpost, one of a number of smaller bases set up by foreign forces in Afghanistan. Also Thursday, the governor of Kandahar province announced that six civilians were killed and 14 were wounded in the airstrike on a village in Shawalikot district. His statement said an investigation is ongoing.
Wounded villagers at a hospital in the provincial capital told The Associated Press that attack helicopters started bombarding their homes at about 10:30 pm. Wednesday. One man said his 3-year-old granddaughter was killed.
Mathias, the US military spokeswoman, said she did not have details because fighting was continuing in the area. She said casualties were reported but could not confirm anything. US Gen Stanley McChrystal, who took over last month as the commander of US and NATO forces, has said he wants his troops' first priority to be protecting Afghan civilians, not using massive fire power.
Elsewhere, officials said three police were killed by a suicide car bomber in Nimroz province, and two Afghan army soldiers died in two other attacks in the south. NATO forces said they killed two insurgents in an attack in the east.
The Interior Ministry said an attack on an international military supply convoy sparked a gunbattle that killed at least eight insurgents, two police officers and a private security guard.