British soldier 'captured by Taliban in Afghanistan'
Published 04/07/2011 | 14:53
A British soldier has gone missing in Afghanistan amid claims he has been captured by the Taliban.
The Ministry of Defence said the soldier was reported missing in the early hours of this morning after he disappeared from his base in central Helmand Province.
The soldier's next of kin have been informed and a major search is under way to find him.
A spokesman for the Taliban claimed that the militant group had captured the soldier on Sunday, and even claimed that they had executed him, in the Babaji area of southern Helmand.
"The soldier was captured yesterday evening during a firefight. When the fighting got more intense we couldn't keep him so we had to kill him," Qari Mohammad Yousuf told Reuters.
The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the MoD declined to comment on the Taliban claims.
Afghan police officials in southern Helmand said a British soldier had been kidnapped in the Gereshk area of Nahri Sarraj district.
An MoD spokesman said: "The Ministry of Defence can confirm that a British serviceman is missing in Afghanistan. An extensive operation to locate him is under way.
"The individual was based in Central Helmand and was reported missing in the early hours of this morning.
"His next of kin have been informed and they will be updated as the operation continues."
It is understood that the search for the missing serviceman is being carried out both on the ground and from the air.
The Taliban claimed to the BBC that they captured and killed a foreign soldier in the area after a firefight.
This could not be verified, and the Taliban often make exaggerated claims for propaganda purposes.
He had left the base alone in the early hours of Monday morning, a move which is described as "highly unusual".
Will Calladine, a spokesman for the British embassy in Kabul, said: "Obviously this is a sensitive issue. Our primary concern is for the person's safety."
Most of the troops in that area of Afghanistan are American and British, however, soldiers from other countries also operate in the region.
In June 2009 insurgents captured American soldier Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl in south-eastern Afghanistan and have released videos showing him in captivity dressed in both Afghan clothing and in military uniform.
It is believed that the 25-year-old Army sergeant from Hailey, Idaho, is being held in Pakistan.