Dilip Joseph: Springs doc saved in Afghanistan rescue that kills SEAL Team's Nicholas Checque

SEAL Team 6 didn't retire after leading the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. The elite squad continues to get the toughest assignments imaginable, and even when they're successful, there can be serious collateral damage. Case in point: A rescue operation in Afghanistan saved a Colorado Springs physician, Dr. Dilip Joseph, but SEAL team member Nicholas Checque didn't make it home. Details below.

Joseph's serves as a medical adviser for Colorado Springs' Morning Star Development, a relief organization that's worked in Afghanistan for some time. Earlier this month, according to CBS, he was taken hostage by Taliban fighters along with two Afghani nationals. The latter pair were eventually released, but the kidnappers demanded $100,000 for Joseph's safe return. Not that they were taking great care of him; his captors were allegedly seen slapping him in the head.

With Joseph's life hanging in the balance, the SEAL team got the call and conducted what's dubbed a helicopter assault on a mountainous location just inside the Pakistan border. The Taliban fought back with an arsenal said to include machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Nonetheless, seven of them were killed and Joseph came away with no significant injuries. But Checque, an eight-year veteran of the SEALs who hailed from Monroeville, Pennsylvania, was killed by a bullet to the head.

Joseph is expected to be back in Colorado Springs soon. In the meantime, President Barack Obama is among those who's paid tribute to Checque, saying, "He gave his life for his fellow Americans, and he and his teammates remind us once more of the selfless service that allows our nation to stay strong, safe and free."

Look below to see a video from ABC News, as well as a more recent CBS report broadcast after Checque's name was made public. They're followed by a news release from Morning Star detailing Joseph's rescue.


December 8, 2012; 7:30 p.m. CST

At approximately 4:30 p.m. MST on December 8, 2012, Morning Star Development confirmed that the third and final member of a Morning Star staff team had been freed from captivity after being kidnapped at about 3:30 p.m. local (Afghanistan) time on Wednesday, December 5, 2012. This third member, Mr. Joseph of Colorado Springs, CO, was successfully rescued from his captors by members of the United States armed forces. The other two members had been released by their captors about 11 hours earlier following hours of negotiations conducted over three days.

The three staff members were abducted while returning from a visit to one of our rural medical clinics in eastern Kabul Province. They were stopped and captured while driving, by a group of armed men. They were eventually taken to a mountainous area about 50 miles from the Pakistan border.

Contact between the hostages, their captors, and Morning Star's crisis management team (operating from Kabul and Colorado Springs) began almost immediately and continued in an on-again, off-again pattern until early Saturday evening (Afghanistan time). It was at about that time that the captors released two of the three hostages. These two hostages are national staff members of Morning Star Development. One is a member of the organization's medical staff and the other is a member of the organization's support staff. Because these two men live and work in the general region of the event, Morning Star will not disclose their identities. After being released, both men made their way out of the area and were eventually taken to a police station, where Morning Star and their families were informed of their release.

Mr. Joseph remained in the custody of his kidnappers after his colleagues were released. Later that night, United States military forces rescued Mr. Joseph. He was then taken to Bagram Airfield north of Kabul. Although he was reported to be in good condition and uninjured during the rescue, he will receive precautionary examinations and debriefing before returning to his Colorado Springs home, probably within a few days. His family was notified of his safe rescue very shortly after he was freed.

Mr. Joseph has worked with Morning Star Development for three years. He serves as our Medical Advisor and he travels frequently to Afghanistan.

Morning Star Development is grateful beyond words for the assistance and support of many people and organizations during this event. Due to security concerns, some cannot be named but their help will never be forgotten. Among these who cannot be named we include all of the courageous members of the U.S. military who successfully rescued Mr. Joseph as they risked their own lives doing so.

Those we can express public appreciation to include:

• Countless local Afghan residents of the communities served by Morning Star's Community Center who assisted in the resolution of this event; including those elders and local leaders who made visits and appeals to the captors advocating for the release of the hostages.

• All of the members of the various agencies of the United States government, at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, other locations in Afghanistan and in the U.S., who gave timely, professional and compassionate assistance.

• Afghan authorities who provided information and support both to the crisis management team and to the U.S. government in this matter.

• Members of partner agencies in Afghanistan and around the world who offered counsel, support and prayers during this event.

• Our own staff in Afghanistan and the U.S. This dedicated team extended grace, support and assistance even as they continued to provide vital services to the people of Afghanistan.

Due to the volatile security environment in Afghanistan and Morning Star's commitment to continue its work in the country, no further information about this event will be released by our organization. All inquiries concerning the rescue of Mr. Joseph should be directed to the appropriate agencies of the United States government.

Morning Star Development does state categorically that we paid no ransom, money or other consideration to the captors or anyone else to secure the release of these hostages.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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