HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - More than 25 NATO and Afghan troops were wounded during a search Friday for two missing U.S. paratroopers in western Afghanistan, the NATO-led force said.
The Taliban said the two missing soldiers were dead and it had recovered their bodies.
A statement by the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan said more than 25 troops were wounded during a search and rescue mission.
Lieutenant Darin Russell, a spokesman for NATO forces, said the troops were wounded “by insurgent activity.” He declined to give further details of the incident, which he said was under investigation.
He was unable to say how many of the wounded were NATO troops and how many were Afghans, or whether any of them had been killed.
The chief of police in Badghis province in western Afghanistan, Abdul Jabar, said NATO aircraft had struck their own troops during the search and that several Americans had died in the “friendly fire” air strike.
NATO announced earlier Friday that two U.S. paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division had gone missing Wednesday while delivering supplies.
Reports of missing troops in Afghanistan are extremely rare and would automatically trigger a large-scale military response.
A Taliban spokesman, Qare Yousuf, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location that the two missing soldiers had drowned and the Islamist militants had recovered their bodies.
Jabar also said the two missing U.S. soldiers had drowned.
U.S. Navy Captain Jane Campbell, a spokeswoman for the NATO-led force, said: “We continue exhaustive search and rescue operations to locate our missing service members. We are doing everything we can to find them.”
“The families of these service members have been notified about their loved ones’ status, and we will continue to keep them informed as information becomes available.”
Troops from more than 40 nations are members of the nearly 110,000-strong force, two-thirds of them American.
Badghis is one of several provinces in the previously quiet west and north of Afghanistan, where insurgent activity has increased dramatically in recent months.
A U.S. soldier has been missing in the southeast since late June. Insurgents say they are holding him, and U.S. forces in the area launched a massive manhunt.
Additional reporting by Peter Graff in KABUL and Adam Entous in WASHINGTON; Editing by Paul Tait
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