Newsweek has reported that an American contractor was captured by Taliban-aligned militants in Afghanistan last week, prompting a nation-wide rescue effort.
Mark R. Frerichs of Lombard, Illinois, was kidnapped last Friday in Khost, a province located in the southeastern part of the country that borders the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, an underdeveloped region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. officials told Newsweek, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details publicly.
Frerichs, 57, is a former U.S. Navy diver and the managing director for International Logistical Support, a U.S. government contractor. According to his LinkedIn account, he has worked as a civil engineer in several conflict zones from Iraq to Sudan during the past 10 years, where he has consulted on logistical contracts for both governments and non-governmental organizations. U.S. officials told Newsweek Frerichs had regularly traveled to Afghanistan since 2012.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, U.S. officials believe the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network orchestrated the operation. Newsweek was unable to determine exactly how Frerichs was captured, but efforts to locate and recover him include a joint effort by Departments of State and Defense, along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If hostage rescue becomes an option for military commanders, typically the mission would be given to U.S. special operation forces.
During the past few days, American forces carried out both ground and intelligence-gathering operations to track the whereabouts of Frerichs while navigating difficult Afghan topography and severe winter weather that has prevented overhead surveillance missions by U.S. military drones.
Newsweek first learned about the kidnapping on Monday. The Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell, a multi-agency team based at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., asked Newsweek to hold the story until efforts to recover Frerichs progressed, and the publication agreed.
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the Department of State,” said Holly Jensen, a spokeswoman for the Hostage Recovery Fusion Cell. “We have no further comment.”
A Defense Department spokesman referred questions to the State Department.
Newsweek.com (February, 2020) EXCLUSIVE: U.S. CITIZEN KIDNAPPED BY TALIBAN GROUP IN AFGHANISTAN
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