UPDATE: Rescued Springs doctor remains in Afghanistan

JAKOB RODGERS AND ERIN PRATER Updated: December 9, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: December 9, 2012

A Colorado Springs doctor freed from the Taliban by U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan on Saturday has not yet left the country, his employer said Monday.

Lars Peterson, executive director of Colorado Springs-based nonprofit Morning Star Development, said that he had not spoken to the doctor, Dilip Joseph, as of Monday morning.

The organization is still waiting on word as to when Joseph might arrive back in the U.S., Peterson said.

On Monday the Department of Defense announced the death of Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, 28, of Monroeville, Pa., who died Dec. 8 from a single gunshot wound to the head while rescuing Joseph.

Checque was a member of Navy SEAL Team Six, which killed Osama bin Laden last year, according to the Associated Press.

It's unclear whether Checque was on the bin Laden mission.

The overnight raid early Sunday to rescue Joseph, a three-year employee of the organization, ended three-and-a-half days of off-and-on negotiations that included reported demands for a $100,000 ransom.

Those negotiations led to the release of two other Morning Star Development employees — identified by the charity as Afghans — on Saturday. Eleven hours later, the Special Forces team moved in after intelligence reports revealed a threat to his life.

Joseph wasn’t injured, though he underwent precautionary medical checks, according to a Morning Star Development statement.

President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised the Special Forces troops for their courage and mourned the loss of a rescuer.

In a statement released by Morning Star Development, the family expressed relief at Joseph’s safe return and asked for privacy as he returns home.

“The uncertainty of the days of this ordeal were harrowing and we are so thankful and grateful for the safe return of Dilip to our family,” the statement said.

The family praised the military’s “quick response” and expressed sorrow for the lost American life.

“They showed great heroism and professionalism.”

Despite being among the lower-profile faith-based organizations in Colorado Springs — boasting just seven employees here in 2010 — Morning Star Development has a outsized impact overseas.

The nonprofit at one point employed 153 people in Afghanistan funded by an annual budget of about $900,000 — 90-percent of which is spent on community and economic development in the rural areas of Afghanistan.

The organization was created in 2002. By 2011, it had built four community centers and four medical clinics.

Joseph was returning on Wednesday from a visit to one of those clinics when a group of armed men kidnapped them, according to the charity.

The insurgents took the hostages to a mountainous area about 50 miles form the Pakistan border, the charity said. Afghan police later learned of Joseph’s location after capturing the insurgents’ commander, Shah Gul, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Morning Star Development officials stressed that they never paid ransoms.

Because of the time difference, Joseph’s family received word of his rescue Saturday, shortly after the raid, the charity said.

A medical advisor, Joseph has “frequently” visited Afghanistan during his tenure at the organization. He’s expected to return to Colorado Springs “probably within a few days,” the organization said.

Joseph’s family couldn’t be reached at their home by The Gazette on Sunday.

In a statement, Morning Star Development said it was “grateful beyond words” for the assistance from all who helped free the employees. The organization expressed its commitment to remaining in Afghanistan despite the kidnapping.

In 2009, the organization served an estimated 38,000 Afghan patients — 19,000 of whom were children 5 years old and younger.

The organization also handed out clothing and sought to improve education and literacy among Afghan women through its “Elevating Women Initiative.”

Its founder, Daniel Batchelder, of Colorado Springs, told The Gazette two years ago that his organization does evangelical work in countries where the law permits. In Afghanistan, where Islam is the predominant religion, employees refrain from proselytizing, he said.

The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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