Body Found in Euphrates River Is That of Missing Soldier
TORRANCE, Calif. (AP) -- The body of a U.S. soldier found in the Euphrates River in Iraq was identified Wednesday as a California man who was abducted with two comrades a week and a half ago, a relative said.
Military officials told the family of Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. of Torrance that a commanding officer identified the body, but that DNA tests were still pending.
"They told us, 'We're sorry to inform you the body we found has been identified as Joe,'" said the soldier's aunt, Debbie Anzack. "I'm in disbelief."
Anzack, 20, was one of three soldiers who vanished after their combat team was ambushed May 12 about 20 miles outside of Baghdad. Five others, including an Iraqi, were killed in the ambush.
The three U.S. soldiers were members of 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division's 2nd Brigade combat team. The 10th Mountain Division, based in Fort Drum, N.Y., has spearheaded a search that has included 4,000 U.S. troops and 2,000 Iraqis. Two soldiers, not yet identified, have died in the search.
If the soldiers were taken alive, it would be the single biggest abduction of U.S. soldiers in Iraq since Pvt. Jessica Lynch and six others were captured on March 23, 2003.
Anzack's family had already endured an earlier rumor that he was dead. About a month ago, messages on MySpace.com said the Army gunner had died. South High School, where he had been a high school football star, posted a message on the school's marquee reading: "In Loving Memory Joseph Anzack Class of 2005."
His father, Joseph Anzack, called the Red Cross about the rumors, and military commanders were able to get his son to a phone where he confirmed he was alive and well.
In the soldiers' hometowns, the discovery of the body cast a pall after days of optimism that all the soldiers might be found alive. Still missing are Pvt. Byron Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich. and Spc. Alex Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass.
In Lawrence, Mass., a yellow ribbon was tied to the front door of the home of Jimenez's father, Ramon "Andy" Jimenez. Ramon Jimenez, who speaks Spanish, said through a translator that he has been bouyed by the support of friends and family.
"The hope is very high that God is going to give Alex back to him," said Wendy Luzon, a family friend who translated the conversation and has served as the family's spokeswoman.
He last spoke with his son three weeks ago, she said, but the conversation was brief because of a bad connection.