Monday, June 19, 2006
BAGHDAD, June 18 -- Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Sunday that two U.S. soldiers missing after an insurgent attack south of Baghdad appeared to have been taken captive, while U.S. troops searched for their comrades for a second day.
"Hopefully they will be found and released as soon as possible," he said on CNN's "Late Edition."
The U.S. military said Saturday that soldiers at a checkpoint heard small-arms fire and explosions during an attack in the town of Yusufiyah at 7:15 p.m. Friday, and a quick-reaction force reached the scene within 15 minutes. The force found one soldier dead but no sign of the two others.
[The Defense Department on Monday identified the missing men as Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. It said Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was killed in the attack.]
Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, said blocking positions were established throughout the area within an hour of the attack to keep suspects from fleeing. He also said divers would search a Euphrates River canal near the attacked outpost.
The two soldiers were the first to be missing in the Iraq war since Sgt. Keith M. Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, was captured on April 9, 2004, when insurgents ambushed his fuel convoy west of Baghdad.
A week later, al-Jazeera television aired a videotape showing Maupin, 20, sitting on a floor surrounded by five masked men holding automatic rifles.
In Baghdad, gunmen kidnapped 10 bakery workers, and a mortar attack killed four people. Police also found the bodies of 17 people around the capital, including four women and a teenager who had been handcuffed and shot in the head, the latest apparent victims of sectarian death squads.
In Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold 60 miles west of the capital, U.S. and Iraqi troops met little resistance as they established new outposts in an operation aimed at denying supplies to insurgents.