Soldiers died, militants say

Video by group shows IDs of 2 men missing since last month, claims they were killed

June 05, 2007|By New York Times News Service

BAGHDAD -- A Sunni Arab insurgent group released a video yesterday that showed the military identification cards of two missing American soldiers abducted in an ambush south of Baghdad last month, and the group claimed that the two had been killed along with one other soldier.

The video - from the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella insurgent group that includes al-Qaida in Mesopotamia - did not provide proof of whether the two missing soldiers were alive or dead. But an American military official with the missing soldiers' unit said the identification cards appeared to be authentic, suggesting that the group was involved in the attack. The narrator of the video asserted that the soldiers were dead.

"We decided to finish this issue and announce the killing of the soldiers and to make the enemies of God carry the bitter responsibility," the video's narrator said. "After the three soldiers were alive as prisoners they became dead bodies."

American military officials said they would study the video for clues and continue searching for the two missing soldiers, Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Mass., and Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Mich.

"We've been on the lookout for something like this," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. Investigators, he said, "will continue to review it for whatever information we can gain from it."

The video did not refer by name to the third abducted soldier, Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif. Anzack's body was pulled from the Euphrates River in Babil province, south of Baghdad, 11 days after the May 12 ambush.

Videos of kidnapped Westerners and attacks against U.S. troops have frequently been used for propaganda purposes by insurgents. Yesterday's video was significant largely because it was less graphic than usual and provided little evidence that those who produced the video actually held the two soldiers captive or killed them.

Its limited scope and appearance nearly a month after the ambush seemed to confirm what some U.S. commanders have suspected all along: that the insurgents are seeking to drag out the process of discovery and deny closure to the families of the missing soldiers and the thousands of American and Iraqi troops who have been searching for them since the day they disappeared.

The undated video was made available to reporters by the Site Institute, which tracks jihadist Web sites. Of the nearly 11 minutes of footage, the only portion that purportedly corresponds to the attack shows what appears to be a burning Humvee, videotaped from far away at night for a few seconds.

The attack - which occurred before dawn near Yusifiya, a Sunni stronghold about 15 miles south of the capital - did lead to the burning of two Humvees that were attacked, according to military officials. But the video does not show the three soldiers who were abducted nor the five soldiers killed during the ambush, one of whom was an Iraqi.

What the video displays is a group of masked men apparently planning the ambush using a diagram pinned to a tree. Personal items that appear to belong to the soldiers are also shown, including a pistol, credit cards and American and Iraqi money.

At the end, the video shows a still image of both sides of the photo identifications of Jimenez and Fouty.

Above the photos, written in Arabic, was the message, "Bush is the reason for the loss of your sons."

The video repeatedly mocks the U.S. military for being unable to find the three abducted soldiers. Citing the American use of helicopters and unmanned aircraft, the video's narrator said, "They felt arrogant because of their abilities and their technology, which was humiliated by the Islamic State's soldiers."

The release of the video coincided with the U.S. military's announcement of an attack Sunday on soldiers from the same division, which wounded eight American soldiers at a small patrol base southeast of Baghdad. The assault involved a car bomb, small arms fire and mortar fire, the military's statement said, and it was repelled by American attack aircraft, ground forces and unmanned aircraft.

That attack - like the May 12 abduction - highlighted the risks that have come with sending soldiers to smaller bases as part of the new counterinsurgency plan for securing Iraq. May was the third worst month for American deaths since the start of the war in March 2003, and commanders have acknowledged that attacks by insurgents have grown more sophisticated.

New details emerged yesterday about who might have been responsible for one attack in Baghdad last week: the high-profile kidnapping of five Britons from an Iraqi government building.

The U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, said the gunmen responsible for the attack were most likely part of the same Shiite militant cell whose leader, Sheik Azhar al-Duleimi, was killed last month by an American special operations unit after he was implicated in the deaths of five U.S. troops in Karbala in January.

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