Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a Dec. 9 statement that "in this fallen hero, and all of our special operators, Americans see the highest ideals of citizenship, sacrifice and service upheld." (File photo / Defense Department)
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WASHINGTON — A member of a U.S. special operations team was killed during a weekend rescue mission in Afghanistan that freed an American doctor abducted by the Taliban outside of Kabul five days ago.
The U.S. did not immediately identify the special operator killed in the mission. News outlets including CNN and NBC reported that the service member was a Navy SEAL.
President Obama praised U.S. 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. Dilip 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 military.
The president praised the fallen service member.
"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," Obama said 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."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's statement, issued Sunday night:
"I want to commend the U.S Special Operations team who rescued an American citizen captured by the Taliban in Afghanistan. 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. 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."