U.S., Iraqi troops search for missing American soldier

October 25, 2006|By Louise Roug | Louise Roug,LOS ANGELES TIMES

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- U.S. and Iraqi troops aided by warplanes and unmanned drones fanned out in a Baghdad neighborhood yesterday in search of an American soldier believed to have been abducted the previous evening.

The troops shut off roads and bridges, erected checkpoints, searched cars and went from house to house in the Karada neighborhood, U.S. military officials said.

"It's pretty intense," said Lt. Col. Jonathan Withington, a military spokesman. "Forces throughout Baghdad are working on it."

The soldier, an American of Iraqi descent who worked as a linguist on a reconstruction team, was last seen inside Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Monday afternoon. Officials believe he left the protected compound to visit Iraqi relatives in the city during Eid al-Fitr holiday, the most festive on the Muslim calendar.

During the visit, three cars reportedly pulled up to the house, according to a military statement. Kidnappers, wearing dark rags over their faces, handcuffed the unnamed soldier and forced him into one of the vehicles, the statement said. The abductors reportedly later called a relative of the soldier at the house, using the soldier's cell phone.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones, and we are working for his safe return," said Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad.

American troops have rarely been abducted in Iraq. But in June, search teams found the badly mutilated bodies of two American soldiers in a field south of Baghdad. Attackers had taken the pair during an assault on their checkpoint and then tortured and killed them. Another soldier was killed during the initial attack.

One U.S. soldier, Staff Sgt. Keith M. Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, was captured in April 2004 and has not been found.

The U.S. military also announced yesterday the deaths of four more American troops. One soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad yesterday, while two Marines and a sailor were killed in the western Anbar province a day earlier. Their deaths raised to at least 90 the number of American troops killed this month.

At least 22 Iraqis were found dead yesterday on the streets of Baghdad. Most had been blindfolded, handcuffed, tortured and killed, police said.

A bomb targeting a market in central Baghdad killed one person and injured seven others. Elsewhere, a bomb rigged to a gasoline truck detonated near the capital's Dora neighborhood, but no one was harmed in the explosion, according to police.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, a bomb went off near the motorcade of the police chief, Torhan Mohammed, injuring one guard and two children. A second bomb exploded as officers responded on the scene, injuring two policemen. A third bomb in the city killed one Iraqi soldier and injured another earlier in the day.

Louise Roug writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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