U.S. Threatens Afghans Over Kidnapped GI

This story was written by CBSNews.com's Tucker Reals in London.

(CBS)
At least two Afghan villages have been blanketed with leaflets warning that if an American soldier kidnapped by the Taliban two weeks ago isn't freed, "you will be targeted."

Villagers near the border of two volatile provinces, Ghazni and Paktika, tell CBS News' Sami Yousafzai that aircraft dropped the leaflets during the past several days.

Military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias confirmed that the leaflets were produced at Bagram Air Base, the primary U.S. installation in Afghanistan, and distributed in the region. She told CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark, however, that they were distributed by hand, not aircraft.

The papers show on one side an image of a soldier with his head bowed so that his face is not visible (above). A message in the local Pashtun language over the image says, "If you do not free the American soldier, then…"

(CBS)
On the other side, an image shows Western troops breaking into a house. The rest of the message is printed across the photo: "…you will be targeted".

According to the military, the translation of the last word in the sentence is "hunted," not targeted, but CBS News' independent translators say the word also means "targeted".

Mathias told Clark that another leaflet was dropped from aircraft in Ghazni and Paktika which notifies locals that a U.S. soldier is missing and requests any information on his whereabouts.

Mathias' colleague, Lt. Com. Christine Sidenstricker, said no threats are made in the leaflet which was air-dropped. The image shows an unidentified U.S. soldier (not the one who was kidnapped) sitting on the ground and talking to Afghan children. On the front it reads: "One of our American guests is missing." On the back: "Return the guest to his home. Call us at…," according to the military's translation. This leaflet is seen below.

(CBS)

Taliban militants and U.S. military officials confirmed the abduction of one soldier to CBS News on July 2, with a Taliban commander telling Yousafzai the American was cornered by militants and abducted along with three Afghan nationals in Paktika province, which borders Pakistan.

The missing soldier has not been identified by the military.

A Taliban source in Paktika claimed on Wednesday that U.S. forces had already launched three attempts to find the missing soldier in different locations near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, "but all three raids were ineffective and the solder is in a safe and secure protected area controlled by the Taliban."

A militant commander in southern Afghanistan said a decision to keep the American hostage "in good shape of health" had come from the Taliban's military council, or Shura.

The commander, and the other Taliban source in Paktika, indicated that a ransom may be sought for the soldier's safe return, but the commander warned there was also an order to kill the man if there was any kind of operation to rescue him or an escape attempt.

Taliban commander Mawlavi Sangin told the Reuters news agency on Thursday that U.S. forces were harassing Afghans in Paktika and Ghazni provinces over the kidnapping.

"They have put pressure on the people in these two provinces and if that does not stop we will kill him," Sangin told Reuters by telephone.

While American military and intelligence services have dropped leaflets on Afghanistan for years, most of them have clearly targeted militants — frequently carrying photos or caricatures of Taliban leaders.

The new leaflet represents a broader, direct warning to local people in the region where the U.S. soldier was seized. Villagers from near the Paktika-Ghazni border told CBS News the papers were found stuck in trees and littering roofs in the area.

The question is, will its stern message help win the missing soldier's freedom, or just antagonize the local people who could help, or hurt, that effort.

  • Tucker Reals

    Tucker Reals is the CBSNews.com foreign editor, based at the CBS News London bureau.

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