A Seattle sailor missing in Afghanistan is the target of a massive search. He is Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove.

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A sailor from West Seattle serving in Afghanistan is missing and the target of a massive search by Afghan and NATO forces.

The search for Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove unfolds as the Taliban claim to have taken a U.S. serviceman captive. While not confirming that Newlove is the serviceman being held, NATO officials, in a statement released Tuesday, said the international coalition “holds the captors accountable for the safety and proper treatment of our missing service member.”

Newlove, 25, and a second sailor, Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley, left their Kabul base Friday for a trip to the Charkh District of Logar province, where the Taliban have a strong presence.

Pentagon officials confirmed Tuesday that Newlove is missing and reported that McNeley, 30, died of wounds suffered Friday. International forces recovered his body after an extensive search. McNeley is from Wheatridge, Colo., and was assigned to the Navy’s Assault Craft Unit One in San Diego.

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The search has resulted in the detention of six people who either were directly responsible for or accommodated the attack on the sailors, according to Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, a NATO spokesman.

Newlove’s family declined an interview request from The Seattle Times. They channeled their remarks through the Navy, which has advised that many personal details about his life should not be made public.

“Speaking on behalf of the Newlove family, they would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers,” said a statement released by the Navy. “They want the public to know that all of your support means so much to their family. They also said they appreciate everything the Navy has been doing to help them through this time. On behalf of the Newlove family, please continue to pray for Jarod’s safe return.”

Newlove is a 2003 graduate of Seattle’s Chief Sealth High School. He spent five years on active duty in the Navy and was ranked as a culinary specialist, according to a Navy biography. He then joined the Navy Reserve, but quickly returned to active service. By December 2009, he had reported for duty at what the Navy listed as a Kabul-based “mobilization and accounting operations.”

In an album of photos entitled “Training for Afghanistan,” posted on a social-media account, Newlove depicted himself learning how to drive a Humvee as well as being trained how to insert intravenous needles into another serviceman’s arm.

In Afghanistan, he and McNeley were involved in training Afghan security forces, according to Col. Wayne Shanks, a NATO spokesman who said he was uncertain of their role in that effort.

The school was headquartered in Kabul and had classrooms outside the capital, but the sailors never were assigned anywhere near where McNeley’s body was recovered, according to a senior military official. No public explanations have been offered on what the two sailors were doing in Logar province.

In a news conference Sunday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the Friday drive south of Kabul an “unusual circumstance,” but he declined to offer additional details.

The two sailors drove an armored white sport-utility vehicle some 60 miles and ended up in Charkh, the southernmost district of Logar. The sailors could have used such a vehicle to make trips within Kabul. But security procedures intended to protect against insurgent attacks require a convoy of multiple armored vehicles when traveling to Charkh District.

“They should not have been in a single-vehicle movement,” said Breasseale, the NATO spokesman.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, in a Sunday interview with The Associated Press, said one American was killed and the second captured during a brief gunfight as the two sailors drove through the village of Dasht. He did not mention Taliban demands.

“We are going to talk about that later,” he said.

International forces found the sailor’s vehicle riddled with bullets. McNeley’s body was found in the same area.

McNeley, a noncommissioned officer and the father of two sons, was scheduled to return to Colorado in August, according to a family member, Jim Kerr, who spoke with The Denver Post.

The search has been carried out both on the ground and in the air. In fliers distributed in Logar province, the U.S. military has offered a $20,000 reward for information leading to the missing sailor’s return.

The disappearance of one sailor and death of a second is more bad news in a difficult summer for international forces in Afghanistan, as the combined June and July casualty rate has reached the highest of any two-month period of the war. While much of the fighting is concentrated in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency has spread to some provinces near Kabul, with the Charkh District of Logar harboring an active insurgency.

Although Afghanistan is a landlocked country, some 6,500 Navy personnel serve there with medical, administrative, construction, combat or other skills that help support the NATO military campaign. Many of these Navy personnel deploy as individuals or in small groups to help the Army, Marines or other international forces that have a larger presence.

“We have been closely following the situation from the outset,” said Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations. “Forces on the ground in Afghanistan are doing everything they can to locate and safely return our missing shipmates.”

The Afghanistan war has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 U.S. service personnel. But prisoner-taking has been a rare event.

One U.S. servicemember known to be in Taliban captivity is Spc. Bowe Bergdahl, of Hailey, Idaho, who disappeared June 30, 2009, in Paktika province. He has appeared on videos posted on Taliban websites confirming his captivity.

Bergdahl’s captivity has passed the one-year mark, and a friend — University of Washington student Sabine Parrish — would like to see more attention focused on his plight.

“It is very difficult,” Parrish said. “His family is really heartbroken and want him back. And we, his circle of friends, want him back. We miss him.”

Seattle Times reporters Steve Miletich and Nick Perry and researchers Mikoyo Wolf and David Turim, McClatchy Newspapers and The Associated Press contributed to this report. Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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