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U.S. Special Forces soldier killed by hostile fire

TAMPA, Florida (CNN) -- A U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed by small-arms fire in eastern Afghanistan Friday, the first member of the U.S. military to die from hostile fire during the three-month-old conflict.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the head of U.S. Central Command, said the soldier was on a mission "to coordinate with local tribal elements in the vicinity" of Gardez and Khowst. Both are towns in eastern Afghanistan where U.S. forces are working with Afghan forces to track down any Taliban or al Qaeda fighters trying to flee into Pakistan.

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The Pentagon identified the Green Beret as Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Ross Chapman of San Antonio, Texas. Chapman, 31, was a member of the U.S. Army's 1st Special Forces Group based in Fort Lewis, Washington.

U.S. officials said a CIA officer was shot in the incident in what one described as an "ambush." The officer's wounds were not life-threatening, officials said.

"In each conflict that our nation's been in throughout our history, we have had people hurt, and we've had people killed," Franks said at Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida. "And it is no more pleasant today than it has been in the past. I'm thankful every day that we have not lost more people than we have lost in this fight."

According to U.S. officials, the mission involved a joint team of CIA operatives and special forces soldiers. Members of the elite Delta Force were involved, they said.

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When the team reported it was in trouble, a rapid-reaction team came in and got the fighters out, officials said.

Franks said he had few details on what exactly happened.

"The specifics of the incident that caused the loss of life have not been fully developed yet, and so I'll hold those until we're a bit more sure of what happened," he said.

Franks did say the soldier was a member of an Army Special Forces unit, although he did not say whether the man was a member of Delta Force.

Delta Force is the military's elite counterterrorism unit that specializes in hostage rescue. The military typically does not acknowledge the existence of the unit or its missions.

While this is the first American military death from hostile fire, there have been other Americans have been killed in the Afghanistan campaign. Mike Spann, a CIA operative, was killed during a Taliban prisoner revolt in Mazar-e Sharif in November. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Three Army Green Berets soldiers along with six Afghan fighters were killed December 5 when a 2,000-pound satellite-guided bomb from a U.S. B-52 missed its target north of Kandahar.

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Henry Petithory, 32, of Massachusetts; Staff Sgt. Brian Cody Prosser, 28, of California; and Master Sgt. Jefferson Donald Davis, 39, of Tennessee, were killed when the bomb exploded within 100 yards of their position. All three belonged to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.




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