Search Intensifies for US Troops Missing in Afghanistan

U.S. and Afghan forces have intensified the search for a small team of U.S. troops missing in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan for nearly a week. U.S. military officials in Kabul, however, have declined to confirm reports that one member of the Special Forces team has been rescued. The U.S. military says it is investigating claims that air strikes in the regin against rebel positions have killed civilians as well as insurgents.

The U.S. Special Operations' team has been missing in the mountains of Kunar province, which borders Pakistan, since last Tuesday.

A U.S. military helicopter that was sent to rescue the missing troops last week was shot down by suspected insurgents. All 16 servicemen on board were killed in the biggest combat blow to U.S. forces in Afghanistan since they ousted the Taleban in late 2001.

There have been reports that one member of the missing team was rescued on Sunday and flown to a military hospital in Germany for medical treatment.

The rescued U.S. Navy Seal Commando was reportedly wounded but evaded insurgents for five days.

Speaking to reporters in Kabul Monday, a spokesperson for the U.S.-led military coalition, Lieutenant Cindy Moore, declined to comment on reports about the rescue, but said anti-insurgent operations were continuing. "I can tell you that operations are ongoing. Operation Redwing is still a continuing operation in Kunar province, but we do not have a report yet on the battle damage assessment," she said.

The U.S. military has said its warplanes have carried out air strikes against rebel positions in Kunar.

In a separate development, the joint United Nations-Afghan government electoral commission has condemned Sunday's killing of a senior pro-government cleric, Mohammed Nabi Misbah, in the southern city of Kandahar.

Bronwyn Curran, a spokesperson for the commission in Kabul, said "he was a member of the recently established provincial electoral commissions in Kandahar. While the motive for his killing is not yet clear, the JEMB [Joint Electoral Management Body] chairman condemned it as an act of violence against the Afghan people's hopes for peace and stability."

U.S. and Afghan officials say the recent upsurge in violence in Afghanistan is aimed at disrupting parliamentary elections to be held in September.

Since March this year, the violence has claimed hundreds of lives