Military Mounts Search For Missing U.S. Soldier

By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BAGHDAD, Oct. 24 -- U.S. forces scoured central Baghdad on Tuesday looking for a missing U.S. soldier who was presumed kidnapped by insurgents while visiting his Iraqi relatives. The troops went door-to-door, manned checkpoints, stopped and searched cars and showed pedestrians a picture of their missing comrade, hoping to generate leads on his whereabouts.

The U.S. military said in a statement that the soldier, who was not identified, was an Iraqi American who was assigned to a provisional reconstruction team as a translator.

The soldier apparently has family in Baghdad and left the Green Zone -- the heavily fortified area in the city that is headquarters for the U.S. military, several embassies and the Iraqi government -- to visit relatives Monday to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, one of the biggest holidays of the Muslim year.

While he was at a relative's house, the statement said, three cars pulled up and men with rags over their faces "handcuffed the soldier and forced him into one of the vehicles."

A relative "who claimed to be at the residence when the abduction occurred was reportedly contacted by the kidnappers using the soldier's cell phone," the statement said. It did not say whether a ransom had been demanded or other demands had been made.

"We will leverage all available coalition resources to find this soldier," said Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of coalition forces in the capital. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones."

"The search is ongoing," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a spokesman for the U.S. military command in the city. "We are committing all available coalition resources to find him."

The military said it searched the offices of al-Furat TV in Baghdad on Monday night. The station is owned by the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the country's top Shiite political party and the dominant party in the government.

An employee at the station told the Associated Press afterward that the soldier's wife, also an Iraqi American, reportedly was in the capital visiting family.

A U.S. military spokesman said the soldier was not authorized to be outside the Green Zone for the visit. His duty status has been listed by the military as "whereabouts unknown," the statement said.

The last time a U.S. soldier was abducted was in June, when two soldiers were seized during an insurgent ambush of a U.S. checkpoint south of Baghdad. The mutilated bodies of the two were found three days later. Al-Qaeda in Iraq asserted responsibility for the attack, in which a third U.S. soldier also was killed.

In an unrelated matter, U.S. forces in Fallujah shot and killed four Iraqi firefighters Tuesday, mistakenly believing that they were insurgents who had commandeered a firetruck, the U.S. military said in a statement.

The statement said that after reports had aired that insurgents had hijacked a truck and crew, soldiers spotted a firetruck responding to a call and pulled it over for an inspection. As the firefighters were quickly exiting their truck, "coalition forces thought they were armed" and opened fire, killing them all, the statement said.

A few minutes later, the statement said, the hijacked firetruck was spotted and pulled over, and the occupants fled.

At least five people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in violence in Baghdad on Tuesday.

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