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Taliban is said to threaten US fighter

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The US commando still missing in Afghanistan is being held by the Taliban, and the leaders have decided to kill him, a purported spokesman for the group said yesterday.

The man describing himself as a spokesman, Mullah Latif Hakimi, offered no proof to back up the assertion, which he has made previously. A US military spokeswoman, Lieutenant Cindy Moore, responded by saying: ''We hope he is not in harm's way. We are making every effort to locate him."

The commando is the last of a four-member US Navy SEAL team missing for 10 days in Kunar province, near the Pakistani border. One of the men was rescued; the other two have been found dead.

About 300 troops and several aircraft are searching for the US Navy SEAL in eastern Afghanistan, Moore said.

Hakimi has said previously that the Taliban are holding the commando. But his information has often proven exaggerated, and his exact tie to the Taliban leadership has not beenverified.

''This American will never be forgiven. Definitely, he will be killed," Hakimi said. He said the group would release a video after the man's death.

Hakimi said he was last in contact with the rebels on Wednesday.He said that they are holding the American, that he had been told that the captive's health was good, and that he had not been abused. He said the service member was held in a house in Kunar, an eastern province known for loyalty to the former prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is wanted by the United States. US officials said Al Qaeda fighters also were in the region.

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