By CNN Staff
(CNN) — An American doctor rescued in Afghanistan this month has thanked those who helped free him, offering special gratitude to the family of a young SEAL killed during the operation.
Dr. Dilip Joseph and two other staff members for the international aid group Morning Star Development were kidnapped by armed men on December 5 as they returned from a rural medical clinic in eastern Kabul province.
The raid to free Joseph came several hours after the other two were released. Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, 28, of Monroeville, Pennsylvania, was killed during the operation.
“I would like to take this moment to thank the U.S. and Afghan forces for putting their lives on the line to rescue me. I can appreciate the difficulty of this particular operation and deeply value the sacrifice of one of their own servicemen for the success of this mission,” Joseph said in a statement posted Friday on the Morning Star website.
“My heart goes out to the family of the fallen hero for his service, commitment and courage. He will remain a legacy for me and my family for generations to come,” Joseph said.
While the Defense Department said only that Checque belonged to an “East Coast-based Special Warfare Unit,” a U.S. official said the man was a member of the Navy’s Special Warfare Development Group, more commonly known as SEAL Team Six. The elite unit is the same one that took part in the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The official didn’t know whether the SEAL who died was involved in that operation.
U.S. officials provided few others details about the rescue effort. Tribal leader Malik Samad and district chief Muhammad Haqbeen told CNN that Joseph and an Afghan doctor were abducted near the village of Jegdalek in the Sarobi district, just outside Kabul.
The International Security Assistance Force said Taliban insurgents kidnapped the men. Samad and Haqbeen identified the kidnappers as smugglers.
Checque joined the Navy in 2002 after graduating from high school, according to a brief service record provided by the Defense Department. After attending recruit training in Illinois and advanced training in Virginia, he entered the SEAL program in April 2003.
Joseph has worked with Morning Star for three years. He serves as its medical adviser, and travels frequently to Afghanistan, the agency said. He is now back with his family in the United States.
“I have been traveling to Afghanistan for the past several years in the hope of making a difference for this country and her people. I still hold Afghanistan in great regard and will continue to pray and hope for its peace and long-term stability,” said Joseph.