KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban claimed Sunday that it killed a U.S. sailor and kidnapped another as NATO forces ramped up a massive search for the servicemen, who went missing two days earlier in an area held by the militants.
The coalition force set up checkpoints and distributed fliers with the sailors' pictures and are offering thousands of dollars in rewards for their return. There were conflicting reports about whether the body of one of the two had been recovered.
U.S. and NATO officials confirmed that two American Navy personnel went missing Friday in the eastern province of Logar, after an armored sport utility vehicle was seen driving into a Taliban-held area. NATO officials were unable to say what they were doing in such a dangerous part of eastern Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid also said the pair drove into an area under insurgent control, prompting a brief gunfight in which one American was killed and the other was captured. He said both were taken to a "safe area" and "are in the hands of the Taliban."
The Associated Press, citing a security official in Logar who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information, reported the sailors' heavily reinforced white Land Cruiser has been recovered.
Another local official, Abdul Wali, the deputy head of the provincial governing council, said the Taliban sent a message through intermediaries offering to hand over the body of one sailor in exchange for jailed insurgents.
He said local authorities told the Taliban, " 'Let's talk about the one that is still alive.' " He said the insurgents indicated they would have to talk to superiors before making any deal.
Mujahid, in a telephone call Sunday with the Associated Press, did not mention any Taliban demands. "We are going to talk about that later," he said.
The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the missing sailors for more than 48 hours after the ambush. That suggested the Friday attack was unplanned and the militants were trying to figure out how to handle it.
Later Sunday, the Taliban posted a message in English and Arabic on its website that claimed one American service member had been kidnapped in Logar and said another was killed in a shoot-out, according to SITE Intelligence Group. The website message included a picture of one of the fliers, showing the photo of one of the sailors, but did not say whether he was alive or dead.
The message also mentions Spc. Bowe Bergdahl, the only other U.S. service member known to be in Taliban captivity. Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho, disappeared June 30, 2009, in Paktika province, also in eastern Afghanistan.
The Afghan security official who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that the body of one of the sailors was recovered Sunday in the village of Argan in Charkh district, but a NATO official said the coalition did not have confirmation of the status or condition of either of the two.