(WASHINGTON) — One of the Special Operations troops involved in the raid to free an American doctor from the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan died of his wounds on Sunday.
A U.S. official confirmed the service member killed in the raid was a member of SEAL Team Six.
“I was deeply saddened to learn that a U.S. service member was killed in the operation, and I also want to extend my condolences to his family, teammates and friends,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement released on Sunday. “The special operators who conducted this raid knew they were putting their lives on the line to free a fellow American from the enemy’s grip. They put the safety of another American ahead of their own, as so many of our brave warriors do every day and every night. In this fallen hero, and all of our special operators, Americans see the highest ideals of citizenship, sacrifice and service upheld. The torch of freedom burns brighter because of them.”
President Obama also praised the Special Operations force for their bravery.
“Yesterday, our special operators in Afghanistan rescued an American citizen in a mission that was characteristic of the extraordinary courage, skill and patriotism that our troops show every day,” Obama said on Sunday.
“Tragically, we lost one of our special operators in this effort,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, just as we must always honor our troops and military families. 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.”
Dr. Dilip Joseph and two colleagues were kidnapped on Dec. 5 by a group of armed men while returning from a visit to a rural medical clinic in eastern Kabul Province, according to a statement from their employer, Colorado Springs-based Morning Star Development. The statement said the three were eventually taken to a mountainous area about 50 miles from the border with Pakistan.
Morning Star’s crisis management team in Colorado Springs was in contact with the hostages and their captors almost immediately, the statement said.
On Saturday evening in Afghanistan, two of the three hostages were released. Morning Star did not release their names in order to protect their identities. Dr. Joseph remained in captivity.
Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, ordered the mission to rescue Joseph when “intelligence showed that Joseph was in imminent danger of injury or death”, according to a military press release.
Morning Star said Joseph was in good condition and will probably return home to Colorado Springs in the next few days.
A Defense Department official told ABC News that Joseph can walk, but was beaten up by his captors.
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