From Qadir Sediqi
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) — An American doctor abducted while returning from a rural health clinic outside the Afghan capital city of Kabul was rescued by coalition forces, officials said Sunday.
There were conflicting reports about who was behind the kidnapping of Dr. Dilip Joseph of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said it was Taliban insurgents, while two local Afghan officials told CNN it was smugglers.
Joseph was one of three members of the non-profit group Morning Star Development who were taken at gunpoint Wednesday, the agency said in a statement.
“They were stopped and captured while driving, by a group of armed men,” according to the agency, which sponsors community and economic initiatives in Afghanistan.
“They were eventually taken to a mountainous area about 50 miles from the Pakistan border.”
Morning Star said negotiations between the captors, the hostages and the agency’s crisis management team in Kabul and Colorado Springs began immediately after three of its employees were kidnapped.
The negotiations continued until Saturday night, when two of the three were released. Morning Star Development did not release the identities of the two men, citing safety concerns “because they live and work in the general region.”
A driver and an engineer who were working with the doctors have been arrested on suspicion of having contact with the smugglers, tribal leader Malik Samad and district chief Muhammad Haqbeen told CNN.
The two officials said Joseph and an Afghan doctor were abducted near the village of Jegdalek in the Sarobi district, just outside Kabul.
The family of the Afghan doctor paid $12,000 to the smugglers who later released him, Haqbeen and Samad said.
Joseph was freed Saturday during an operation in Laghman province, the two men said.
ISAF did not provide details about the rescue operation other than to say Joseph was believed to be in imminent danger of injury or death. Gen. John Allen, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, ordered the mission.
“Today’s mission exemplifies our unwavering commitment to defeating the Taliban,” Allen said in a statement. “I’m proud of the American and Afghan forces that planned, rehearsed and successfully conducted this operation. Thanks to them, Dr. Joseph will soon be rejoining his family and loved ones.”
CNN’s Deborah Doft and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.
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