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Pentagon identifies highly decorated SEAL killed during hostage rescue

Petty Officer Nicolas Cheque was a member of the Navy's elite special operations force, SEAL Team 6. He was killed Sunday during a hostage rescue mission in Afghanistan. NBC's Jim Miklaszewski reports.

The U.S. Navy SEAL killed on Sunday during a hostage rescue operation in Afghanistan is Petty Officer 1st Class Nicolas D. Checque, 28, a decorated combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Defense announced Monday.

Checque was a member of SEAL Team Six, the special operations unit that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan last year, though it was not immediately clear if he took part in that raid.

Checque, who was from Monroeville, Pa., and stationed in Virginia Beach, Va., joined the military in 2002, and has been part of Naval Special Warfare Command since 2008, according to the DoD.

He was awarded a Bronze Star and two other awards for combat valor.

In a statement Sunday evening, President Barack Obama said: "Yesterday, our special operators in Afghanistan rescued an American citizen in a mission that was characteristic of the extraordinary courage, skill and patriotism that our troops show every day."

"Tragically, we lost one of our special operators in this effort," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, just as we must always honor our troops and military families."

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issues a statement on Sunday, prior to the release of Checque's identity, commending the team for rescuing Joseph and extending condolences to the family, teammates and friends of the soldier who died in the mission.

"(The team) put the safety of another American ahead of their own, as so many of our brave warriors do every day and every night," Panetta said. "In this fallen hero, and all of our special operators, Americans see the highest ideals of citizenship, sacrifice and service upheld. The torch of freedom burns brighter because of them."

The rescue operation was launched when coalition forces reported that American doctor Dilip Joseph, who had been abducted by the Taliban on Wednesday, was in imminent danger.

A U.S .Navy SEAL is being praised as a fallen hero after he died during the rescue of an American doctor kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. NBC's Atia Abawi reports.

Joseph, who worked with the non-profit Morning Star Development of Colorado Springs, Colo., as a medical adviser, was kidnapped along with two Afghan staff members — one working on the medical team, the other a member of the support team. On Saturday evening, the other two men were released. They made their way out of the area and were taken to a police station. 

Contact between the hostages, their captors and the non-profit's crisis management team started immediately, Morning Star said.

"Our relief in the safe rescue of Mr. Joseph is now tempered by our deep grief over the loss of this true hero," the organization said in an additional statement on Monday. "We offer our deepest condolences to his family and to his fellow team members.  We want them to know that we will always be grateful for this sacrifice and that we will honor that sacrifice in any way we can."

Morning Star did not release the names of the Afghan nationals because "these two men live and work in the general region of the event," the organization said in a statement on Saturday.

At least six people were reported killed in the operation to rescue Joseph. 

The abducted men were returning from a visit to one of Morning Star's rural medical clinics when the kidnappers stopped their vehicle in Kabul province, and were then taken to a mountainous area about 50 miles from the Pakistan border, the group said.

NBC News' Kari Huus and Reuters contributed to this report

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