WASHINGTON — The body of the second of two U.S. sailors who went missing after driving into an ambush has been found outside of Kabul, Pentagon officials said Thursday, but the circumstances that led the men to drive alone into one of Afghanistan's most dangerous regions remained unclear.
Pentagon officials said that the remains of Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, 25, of Renton, Wash., were recovered on Wednesday. Earlier this week, the military said it had recovered the remains of Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley, 30, of Encinitas, Calif.
The sailors left their Kabul base Friday in an armored SUV. The vehicle was discovered abandoned that night in the Charkh District of Logar Province, a Taliban stronghold about 60 miles from Kabul. The Taliban said they ambushed the sailors, killed McNeley and had captured Newlove.
The sailors were stationed to teach Afghan troops about counterinsurgency.
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Gen. Mustafa Mohseni, police chief for Logar, said that villagers in Baraki Barak, the district next to where the sailors were ambushed, told authorities where to find Newlove's body in the village of Yousef Khil, about six miles southwest of the provincial capital of Puli Alam.
It is unclear how or when Newlove was killed. Mohseni said it appeared that Newlove had been shot, but it remains unclear whether he died during the ambush or survived and was held afterward, as the Taliban claimed.
Mohseni said it was possible that Newlove was killed because the search for the sailor closed off Taliban escape routes.
"The security forces had blocked all the ways to take him out," Mohseni said. "They were searching very intensively, so the Taliban might have killed him because they did not have any other options."
Officials in Washington and Kabul said they still don't know why Newlove and McNeley left their base. Military personnel rarely move in less than a convoy in most parts of Afghanistan, and Taliban-laden Logar province is considered one of the nation's most dangerous areas.
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the sailors' decision to leave base an "unusual circumstance."
At least 60 U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far this month, tying it with June as the deadliest months for Americans of the nine-year war.
There are about 6,500 Navy personnel serving in Afghanistan. While Afghanistan is a landlocked country, the military has increasingly called on Navy and Air Force personnel to support the ground effort, and it appears that Newlove received some additional training. Newlove's military records show that he's been an active-duty seaman for five years, and they list him as a "culinary specialist."
(McClatchy special corresponent Shukoor reported from Kabul.)
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