KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) – The Taliban said Sunday that one of two American soldiers missing since Friday had been killed in a gun battle with the insurgents, while the other was captured alive.

"One of the two was killed in the exchange of fire and we arrested the second alive," said Zabihullah Mujahid, after earlier denying the Taliban were involved in the disappearance of the pair in eastern Logar province.

"We have taken both the body and the captured soldier with us and they have been carried to a safe location. We claim responsibility for it now," he told AFP.

"We have not made any decisions on their fate and what we will demand for their release. That is a decision to be made later," he said.

He said the pair had been attacked after arriving in Charkh district, in the south of the volatile province, just south of Kabul.

"Our mujahideen attacked them," he said, echoing earlier reports from local officials that they had been ambushed as they drove into an area of Logar known to be dominated by Taliban-linked militants.

He had no explanation for why he had earlier denied that the Taliban were involved in the disappearance of the pair, who went missing around 8 pm (1530 GMT) on Friday.

Local officials said the Americans were wearing uniform, though their vehicle was believed to be an unmarked, armoured four-wheel-drive.

It was recovered on Saturday "a bit off where it should have been," another official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

At least two local radio stations broadcast descriptions of the soldiers, and offered rewards of ten thousand dollars for the safe return of each man.

Some radio stations had refused to make the broadcast, fearing Taliban reprisals, Al-Jazeera television reported.

An ISAF official said no information had been received.

"There is no confirmation that they are dead or have been kidnapped," he said, adding: "There are rumours that one of them is dead."

All reports were unsubstantiated, he added.

Military helicopters were sweeping the area where the men went missing, in a massive land and air manhunt, the officials said.