Search
Resources
Service Info
Community
Reference
Historical
U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne division off load during a combat mission from a Chinook 47 helicopter March 5, 2002 in Eastern Afghanistan. (Photo by David Marck jr/US Army/Getty Images)
 Global Hotspots
 The Week in Photos Archive

 Today's Headlines
 Sign up for Breaking News Alerts
Join our discussion here.

Report: Al Qaeda Executed Fallen U.s. Sailor



The U.S. Navy SEAL who fell from a helicopter fleeing enemy fire was not killed by the fall - he was killed by al Qaeda fighters who grabbed him while U.S. military officials reportedly watched real-time surveillance pictures from an unmanned spy plane.

The SEAL was identified by Pentagon officials as Petty Officer 1st class Neil Roberts, 32, of Woodland, Calif., but in a briefing Tuesday on the incident Brig. Gen John Rosa, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave no indication of how the sailor was killed.

The revelation came first from an Associated Press reporter, and was later confirmed to other journalists by Maj. Gen. Frank Hagenbeck in Afghanistan.

"We saw him on the Predator [surveillance plane] being dragged off by three al Qaeda men," Hagenbeck said.

When his body was recovered later, he was found to have died from bullet wounds, in what appeared to have been an execution, military officials said.

The U.S.-led troops laying seige to the mountain stronghold of al Qaeda fighters have continued to make gains in the fierce fighting, and military officials now say the coalition forces are in a "dominant" position.

"We've got confirmed kills in the hundreds," Hagenbeck said at a news conference today at the Bagram air base, north of Kabul. "We truly have the momentum at this point."

The estimate of the number of al Qaeda fighters who were hiding in the snow-covered mountains of Paktia province when the assault began Friday evening has risen to 600 to 700, but the U.S. military believes that there are considerably fewer who have survived the days of fighting.

"Conservatively speaking right now, I'm convinced from the evidence I've seen that we've killed at least half of those enemy forces," Hagenbeck said.

Rushing in Reinforcements

The fighting in eastern Afghanistan continues to be intense, though, and the United States is rushing in reinforcements to replace the large number of helicopters damaged in the battle, ABCNEWS has learned.

Four out of 10 Apache helicopters used in the battle have been grounded due to damage, and nearly every helicopter that has returned to base within the last 48 hours has bullet holes, military sources told ABCNEWS. Five Marine Corps Cobra gunships have been rushed to the fight, the sources said.

In addition, Reuters is reporting that hundreds of U.S. troops, many armed with equipment to attack caves, are being airlifted to the battle.

On Monday, seven U.S. soldiers were killed -- including Roberts -- in two incidents involving MH-47 Chinook helicopters. Their bodies arrived this morning at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

Several Afghan fighters assisting U.S. troops have also been killed in the battle.

The fighting is centered on a cave complex southeast of Kabul, in a 60-square-mile area known as Shah-e-Kot. Originally expected to last no more than 72 hours, Operation Anaconda is in its fifth day.

'We've Killed a Lot of People'

Rosa said Tuesday that U.S. forces had been able to "maintain the attack on our terms and our pace."

"The biggest thing to change is we've killed a lot of people," Rosa said. "We've killed a lot of people and they're not moving around as much as they were previously. They're dug in."

Troops were able to search one of the cave complexes used by al Qaeda and Taliban forces, Rosa said. They found mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition, and a stash of foreign passports and identification cards.

In an al Qaeda compound that was overrun by U.S. troops on Saturday, more weapons, equipment and documents were found.

"It was unbelievable, in the mud hut where these guys slept, the beds were still warm and tea was still brewing," Sgt. Maj, Mark Nielsen told The Associated Press. "We also found lots of AK-47 ammunition and medicine along with night vision devices and radios. We destroyed most of what we found."

In other developments:

A trail of e-mails and Internet Web sites indicates that al Qaeda followers have been trying to regroup in the mountains of western Pakistan, The New York Times reported, citing U.S. government officials. The officials told the newspaper that issue was a serious concern because it indicated that al Qaeda had a high level of computer sophistication and could use that ability to launch new terror attacks on the United States.

U.S. intelligence has uncovered terrorist plots to conduct car bombings in Kabul aimed at Western targets and members of the interim Afghan government of Hamid Karzai, a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press. Terrorist cells linked to al Qaeda were to carry out the car bombings, the official told the news agency.

More journalists could be targeted by al Qaeda and Taliban supporters angered by the U.S.-led assault in the Paktia province, international peacekeepers in Afghanistan told Reuters. The peacekeepers said they have received what they called "a serious threat about the kidnap of a journalist in retaliation for the operation." Eight journalists have been killed covering the war in Afghanistan.

ABCNEWS' John McWethy and Brian Hartman in Washington contributed to this report.

To see more on this story, go to http://www.ABCNews.go.com

Copyright 2001 ABCNEWS.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 E-Mail This Page
 Printer-Friendly Format

© 2017 Military Advantage
A Monster Company.