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Ex-Football Star Killed in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. professional football star Pat Tillman, who gave up a $3.6 million sports contract to join the military's elite special forces, has been killed in Afghanistan, U.S. officials said on Friday.
The officials, who asked not to be identified, said Tillman was killed on Thursday in an intense firefight in southeastern Afghanistan as his Army Ranger unit hunted for al Qaeda and Taliban guerrillas.
The 27-year-old soldier, who quit his National Football League career to fanfare in May of 2002, eight months after the Sept. 11 attacks on America, was the most prominent American public figure killed in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon and the Army, in keeping with a law passed by Congress that forbids the military from identifying casualties until 24 hours after their deaths, refused comment on the report. But the White House said Tillman's family was in the prayers of President Bush.
"Pat Tillman was an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. His family is in the thoughts and prayers of President and Mrs. Bush," said a White House spokesman, Taylor Gross.
Enlisting with his brother, Kevin, in the wake of the 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, Tillman turned down a $3.6 million contract from the Arizona Cardinals to become an Army Ranger for an annual salary of $18,000.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Tillman played for four seasons with the Cardinals, from 1998 to 2001.
REMOTE SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN
The U.S. military in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said on Friday that a soldier was killed and two wounded in a firefight near the village of Sperah southwest of Khost on Thursday after a patrol was ambushed. But it did not identify the dead soldier.
Paktia province, where the ambush took place, is one of several remote southeastern Afghan provinces at the heart of an insurgency led by remnants of the hard-line Islamic Taliban, which U.S.-led forces drove from power in late 2001.
There are 17,500 U.S. troops still serving in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (April 23, 2004) -- Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan after walking away from a multimillion-dollar NFL contract to join the Army Rangers, U.S. officials said.
Tillman, who served with the Army Rangers, was 27.
Although the military had not officially confirmed his death, the White House put out a statement of sympathy that praised Tillman as "an inspiration both on an off the football field."
Former Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis said he felt both overwhelming sorrow and tremendous pride in Tillman, who "represented all that was good in sports."
"Pat knew his purpose in life," McGinnis said. "He proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling."
Several of Tillman's friends have said the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks influenced his decision to enlist.
Lt. Col. Matt Beevers, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul, confirmed that a U.S. soldier was killed Thursday evening, but would not say whether it was Tillman.
He said the soldier died after a firefight with anti-coalition militia forces about 25 miles southwest of a U.S. military base at Khost, which has been the scene of frequent attacks.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former NFL player Pat Tillman was killed Thursday while serving as an Army Rangers soldier on a mission in southeastern Afghanistan, Pentagon officials have told CNN. He was 27.
Pentagon sources confirmed that a soldier killed during an ambush on a coalition combat patrol, reported in a U.S. Central Command release, was Tillman.
The incident took place at 7:30 p.m. local time Thursday near the village of Sperah, 40 kilometers southwest of Khowst.
"The enemy action was immediately responded to by the coalition patrol with direct fire and a firefight ensued," the release said. "During the engagement, one coalition soldier was killed and two wounded."
It also said an Afghan Militia Force soldier was killed and that "the enemy broke contact during the engagement."
Tillman, who walked away from a $3.6 million contract as a safety with the Arizona Cardinals to join the military after the Sept. 11 attacks, was in an area where numerous U.S. troops have been killed in battles with suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
Tillman was a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, a light infantry unit out of Fort Benning, Ga.