Missing, Slain GIs Identified As Search Continues in Iraq
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
BAGHDAD, May 15 -- The Pentagon on Tuesday released the names of seven soldiers from the Army's 10th Mountain Division who were captured or killed by insurgents in a sophisticated weekend ambush south of Baghdad.
The three soldiers confirmed dead are Sgt. 1st Class James David Connell Jr., 40, of Lake City, Tenn., Pfc. Daniel W. Courneya, 19, of Nashville, Mich., and Pfc. Christopher E. Murphy, 21, of Lynchburg, Va. The Pentagon said they died in the village of Al Taqa "of wounds suffered when their patrol was attacked by enemy forces using automatic fire and explosives."
Four soldiers were listed as "duty status whereabouts unknown," a term often used before a soldier is formally listed as missing. Of those four, however, one is known to be dead but was badly burned in the ambush that left the soldiers' Humvees ablaze, so the military must conduct forensic tests to determine his identity. The four are Sgt. Anthony J. Schober, 23, of Reno, Nev., Spec. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif., and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich. All the soldiers were assigned to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, N.Y.
The U.S. military did not identify an Iraqi interpreter who also was killed in the Saturday ambush.
A massive hunt involving 4,000 troops is underway for the three missing soldiers, who U.S. military officials believe are in insurgent hands.
"All available assets are being brought to bear in search of these missing soldiers," said Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum.
Lt. Col. Christopher C. Garver, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said the soldiers were in two Humvees, in "a stationary position." When other members of the unit heard an explosion, they "immediately tried to establish contact," he said. Two patrols dispatched to the scene of the attack themselves encountered roadside bombs.
The soldiers were watching a location where insurgents often place roadside bombs when they came under fire, said Fitzpatrick, who described the ambush as "obviously a deliberate and planned attack," forcing the U.S. military's reaction forces to fight their way to the scene.
"The entire battalion is grieving the loss of the soldiers and sharing concern for the missing," said Fitzpatrick, adding that the Army has assigned liaison officers to the families to "provide them the best information and most accurate information as fast as possible." The division is receiving regular updates on the search from Iraq, he said.
The search in Iraq involved new tactics such as dropping leaflets with numbers to phone in tips and blaring requests for information from trucks mounted with loudspeakers. U.S. military officials said they had detained 11 people, including four "high value targets," that they hope will provide clues to the soldiers' whereabouts.
"We're trying to isolate the areas where we think they could be," Maj. Kenny Mintz, the operations officer for the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said in a statement. The captors "don't have freedom of movement. If they have the soldiers, they can't move them from where they are."
The round-the-clock hunt continued into its fourth day despite warnings to stop the search issued by the Islamic State of Iraq -- an umbrella group of Sunni insurgents that is said to have been created by al-Qaeda in Iraq -- saying it would be "in vain." On Monday, the group said the kidnappings were in retaliation for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by U.S. soldiers last year in the area.