Body of Georgian Soldier Found in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The body of a Georgian soldier who is believed to be the first member of the international coalition in Afghanistan to have gone missing in more than three years was found in the country's south, NATO said Sunday. The coalition said he had been captured, without providing further details.

A statement said Afghan police found the body and turned it over to NATO forces Saturday. He went missing Dec. 18 in the restive province of Helmand.

The soldier from the NATO-led coalition is believed to be the first to have gone missing since a U.S. Army sergeant was captured by the Taliban in June 2009. The dead soldier was among the 1,500 troops from the former Soviet republic of Georgia serving in Afghanistan. NATO says an investigation is under way into his capture and death.

An Afghan district official said a villager found the body about 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the soldier's base in Helmand's Musaqala district and informed local police. The official requested anonymity since he was not authorized to talk with the press.

Georgia's Defense Ministry earlier described the missing man as an officer and said an intense search and rescue operation had been mounted in Helmand and Nimroz provinces.

The last known coalition soldier to go missing was U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, 26, who was taken prisoner by militants in Paktika province in southeastern Afghanistan. Attempts have been made by the U.S. to secure his release but have so far failed.

Nineteen Georgian soldiers have been killed since the country joined international military operations in Afghanistan in August 2009. Georgia is not a member of NATO but has significant presence in the country relative to its population of 4.5 million.

There are currently more than 100,000 coalition troops in the country, including some 66,000 from the United States. Only a residual force is slated to remain past 2014.

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