Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Missed Rescue of Hostages by Hours

Newspaper article International New York Times

U.S. Missed Rescue of Hostages by Hours

Article excerpt

Navy SEALs led the unsuccessful raid to free an American professor and his Australian colleague from the Taliban last month, engaging in a fierce gunfight.

Navy SEALs led an unsuccessful raid last month to free an American university professor and his Australian colleague who are being held by the Taliban, engaging in a fierce gun battle with dozens of insurgents at a remote compound in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, American officials said Thursday.

The officials said the rescue mission began in the days after the professors, Kevin King, the American, and Timothy Weeks, the Australian, were taken at gunpoint on Aug. 7 from their vehicle in Kabul near the campus of the American University of Afghanistan, where they teach. The officials said the group of SEAL members, backed by Army Rangers, are believed to have missed the men by hours.

The Pentagon confirmed in a statement that a raid had occurred to rescue two civilians but said that "the hostages were not at the location we suspected." No Americans were killed, but "a number" of insurgents were, it said.

The raid, which was first reported by Fox News, was authorized by President Obama, the Pentagon said. "In order to protect the safety of hostages and operational security," its statement did not specify whom exactly the SEAL members were seeking to rescue or provide any more details about the raid.

But days after the professors were abducted in August, the university put out a statement naming the two men and saying they were teaching English to prepare Afghan students to study abroad.

The Obama administration has not shied away from launching risky rescue raids, but the record has been mixed. The best known is perhaps the raid by SEALs in 2009 to free a cargo ship captain, Richard Phillips, from Somali pirates, an episode that was made into a movie starring Tom Hanks.

In 2012, SEALs freed an American aid worker and her Danish colleague from Somali pirates.

But a military raid in July 2014 to free several American and Western hostages held by the Islamic State in Syria failed because the captives had already been moved. …

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