Monday, May 14, 2007


Islamic State in Iraq claims capture of U.S. soldiers

UPDATE: (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Monday it believed that three U.S. soldiers missing in Iraq were abducted by al Qaeda and the Islamist militant group demanded an end to a massive search as the only way to secure their safety.
"At this time, we believe they were abducted by terrorists belonging to al Qaeda or an affiliated group and this assessment is based on highly credible intelligence information," chief military spokesman Major-General William Caldwell said.
"Your soldiers are in our grip. If you want the safety of your soldiers then do not search for them," the Islamic State in Iraq said in a statement posted on a Web site. The group did not elaborate but its statement implied the soldiers were still alive. The posting did not carry pictures of the soldiers, make demands for their release or say what their fate would be.
In a statement recorded before al Qaeda's demand for an end to the search was posted, Caldwell said the American soldiers were classified as "whereabouts unknown". He said the U.S. military was "using every asset and resource available to the United States and our Iraqi allies in these efforts". "The operations to locate our soldiers are ongoing, and we would not want to do anything that would jeopardize these efforts," Caldwell said.
(AP) - U.S. and Iraqi forces exchanged fire with suspected Sunni insurgents on Monday, killing two and wounding four of them during a massive search for three missing American soldiers in a volatile area south of Baghdad, the Iraqi army said. An al-Qaida front group, the Islamic State in Iraq, claimed Sunday that it had captured U.S soldiers in a deadly attack on a U.S. convoy the day before in Sunni area south of Baghdad that is known as the "triangle of death", a longtime al-Qaida stronghold.
Meanwhile, 4,000 U.S. troops backed by aircraft, intelligence units and Iraqi forces were scouring the farming area around Mahmoudiya and the nearby town of Youssifiyah for the third day, as the military promised to make every effort available to find the missing soldiers. Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, said the military could not verify the claim by the Islamic State of Iraq but "it would not surprise me if ... al-Qaida in Iraq is involved in this because there are similarities to what they've done before."
He pointed out that the terror network also had claimed responsibility for killing two U.S. soldiers whose mutilated bodies were found after they went missing in the same area last year. The Islamic State in Iraq offered no proof for its claim on Internet that it was behind the attack Saturday in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, that also killed four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi translator. If the claim proves true, it would mark one of the most brazen attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq, a coalition of eight insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq.
Early Monday morning, U.S. and Iraqi forces exchanged fire with gunmen near Youssifiyah during the house-to-house search operation for the missing American soldiers, killing two suspected insurgents and injuring four others, a top Iraqi army officer in the area said. He said the fighting began at about 3:30 a.m. and lasted for about 30 minutes. The officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to security concerns, said the coalition's search operation in the region has detained more than 100 suspects. The U.S. military did not immediate comment on the report.
In Mahmoudiyah, residents complained on Monday that coalition forces had searched through their homes, and AP Television News footage showed on one apartment that appeared to have been ransacked in the search. One resident also said three residents in the area, including two guards at a local mosque, had been detained by coalition forces, but that could not be immediately confirmed.

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