Italian commandos, aided by other NATO forces and aircraft, rescued two kidnapped Italian intelligence operatives Monday in an ambush and gunbattle that left at least nine of the captors dead in western Afghanistan.
Although both freed Italians were wounded – one of them seriously – Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said the operation was a success and could put a dent in Afghanistan’s rising kidnapping industry.
The two Italians, who were described by Defense Minister Arturo Parisi in Rome as working for the Sismi intelligence service, disappeared along with their two Afghan colleagues Saturday.
Parisi told parliament that Italian forces were aided in the rescue by British, German and U.S. forces, which were monitoring the movements of the kidnappers with a Predator drone aircraft and helicopters.
Violence elsewhere in Afghanistan killed at least 31 people. Among the dead were two NATO soldiers serving with Spain’s contingent and an Iranian serving as their interpreter – all killed in a land mine explosion, the Spanish defense minister said.
Plane with 3 tons of cocaine crashes
An airplane carrying more than 3 tons of cocaine crashed Monday in southern Mexico after being chased by military helicopters, local media reported.
The plane went down in the town of Tixkokob in the state of Yucatan, about 160 miles west of the beach resort of Cancun, the newspaper Reforma said.
Soldiers found 132 bags containing about 3.6 tons of cocaine, and witnesses saw military helicopters following the aircraft until it crashed, it said.
“The plane was flying over the town for almost two hours … that’s why we called the army,” Tixkokob assistant police chief Ernesto Hernandez told Reforma.
Luis Saiden, a state civil protection official, told Reforma the army said no bodies were found.
A spokesman who answered the phone at Mexico’s Defense Department said he could not confirm the report.
Navy copter crash kills crew member
A U.S. Navy helicopter crashed late Monday during a training mission on Guam, killing one of four people on board, the Navy said.
The helicopter from the Sea Combat 25 squadron crashed into the Fena Reservoir on Navy property near Naval Magazine in Santa Rita.
Three members of the crew were rescued and transported to the island territory’s Navy hospital. Lt. Donnell Evans, a Navy spokesman, said one crew member had a broken arm while the other two were treated for minor injuries.
The body of the fourth crew member was recovered from the water, said Guam Fire Department spokesman Angel Llagas. The names of the crew members were not released.