SEAL Team 6 member killed in Afghan rescue identified; Obama lauds special ops forces
Updated at 6:54 p.m. Eastern
WASHINGTON A member of the same elite U.S. special operations team that killed Osama bin Laden was himself killed during a weekend rescue mission in Afghanistan to free an American doctor abducted by the Taliban. CBS News National Security correspondent David Martin reports the member of SEAL Team 6 killed in the rescue mission has been identified as 28-year-old Petty Officer First Class Nicolas Checque of Monroeville, Pa. Checque had been a SEAL for eight years and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Saturday night, SEAL Team 6 conducted a helicopter assault on a mountain hideout 50 miles from the Pakistani border to rescue Dr. Dilip Joseph, who was captured outside Kabul five days ago, Martin reports. In the resulting firefight, Checque was killed by a single gunshot to the head. Seven of the Taliban, who were armed with machine guns, rocket propelled grenade launchers and AK-47s, were also killed.
President Obama praised the special forces on Sunday, saying the mission was characteristic of U.S. troops' "extraordinary courage, skill and patriotism."
A spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan said Dr. Joseph, of Colorado Springs, Colo., was rescued early Sunday, local time, in eastern Afghanistan. Joseph, a medical adviser for Colorado Springs-based Morning Star Development, was rescued after intelligence showed he was in imminent danger of injury or possible death, according to the U.S. military.
U.S. officials told Martin the Taliban demanded a ransom of $100,000, money Morning Star Development didn't have. The Taliban released the two Afghans captured along with the doctor, but kept Joseph and were heading south toward Pakistan.
The two Afghans released apparently told the American military Joseph was being abused by his captors with slaps to the head. The reported mistreatment and the fact that Joseph would soon disappear into Pakistan convinced Gen. John Allen, the commander in Afghanistan, to order the rescue mission.
"He gave his life for his fellow Americans, and he and his teammates remind us once more of the selfless service that allows our nation to stay strong, safe and free," Mr. Obama said of the fallen American service member in a statement.
In a separate statement Sunday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said, "In this fallen hero, and all of our special operators, Americans see the highest ideals of citizenship, sacrifice and service upheld."
Morning Star, a relief group that helps rebuild communities in Afghanistan, said in a statement that Joseph was uninjured and would probably return home in a few days. The group also said two of his co-workers were freed by their captors about 11 hours before the rescue, after hours of negotiations were conducted over three days.
Morning Star said the three workers were abducted by a group of armed men while returning from a visit to one of the organization's rural medical clinics in eastern Kabul province. The group said the three workers were taken into mountains about 50 miles from the Pakistan border.
The relief group said it would not reveal the identity of the other two men because they live and work in the region. The group said it did not pay ransom to obtain their release.
Morning Star praised those who helped get their workers back unharmed, singling out "courageous members of the U.S. military who successfully rescued Mr. Joseph as they risked their own lives doing so."
The group also offered thanks to local Afghan elders and local leaders "who made visits and appeals to the captors advocating for the release of the hostages."
"Insider attacks" kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan
In September, "60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan reported on the increasing danger from "insider" attacks in Afghanistan and a Taliban comeback in some parts of the country. To see her report, click on the video at left.
"This was a combined operation of U.S. and Afghan forces," said 1st Lt. Joseph Alonso, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. "Information was collected through multiple intelligence sources, which allowed Afghan and coalition forces to identify the location of Joseph and the criminals responsible for his captivity."
Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said the joint force planned, rehearsed and successfully conducted the operation.
"Thanks to them, Dr. Joseph will soon be rejoining his family and loved ones," Allen said.
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