Thursday, April 07, 2005

US ponders status of 2 troops missing in Iraq

Reuters Washington April 6:
The military will consider reclassifying as dead the only United States soldier listed as captured in the Iraq War and review its designation of a pilot shot down in the 1991 Gulf War as captured, officials said.

A three-officer board of inquiry will convene today to review evidence in the case of Army Reserve Sergeant Keith Matthew Maupin, missing in Iraq since April 9, 2004, when his military fuel convoy was ambushed near Baghdad, the army said yesterday.

The army has classified Maupin of Batavia, Ohio, as ‘captured’. Ms Shari Lawrence, a spokeswoman for the Army human resources command, said among the range of options available to the board was to recommend Sgt Maupin be reclassified as ‘deceased/body not recovered’.

The Navy Secretary, Mr Gordon England separately directed another board to reassess the status of Navy Capt Michael Scott Speicher, whose F/A-18C Hornet went down in Iraq on January 17, 1991, navy officials said.

Capt Speicher of Jacksonville, Florida, initially was listed as killed in combat. The navy later changed his status to ‘missing in action’ and in 2002 deemed him ‘missing/captured’, reflecting a belief that the Iraqis may have taken him alive.

Sgt Maupin was promoted to sergeant last week, his second promotion since disappearing, said the army spokeswoman, Major Elizabeth Robbins.

Sgt Maupin’s captors sent a videotape to Arabic satellite television channel Al Jazeera a week after he was seized. The tape showed Sgt Maupin dressed in military fatigues sitting on a floor, held captive by masked and heavily-armed guerrillas.

A second videotape shown by Al Jazeera on June 28, 2004, showed what militants said was the execution of a US soldier. The army said the identification of Sgt Maupin was ‘not conclusive’ from the poor-quality video in which a gunman could be seen firing one shot at the soldier, seen only from the back, in a dark setting. The body fell into a hole.

England ordered the action in the Speicher case after receiving a report from the Defence Intelligence Agency summarising findings regarding the missing pilot from November 2002 to the beginning of last month, said a defence official, who asked not to be named.

The official said the report stated ‘no new valid information’ had been discovered in a two-year search of Iraq that Capt Speicher had ever been held captive. Senator, Mr Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who has sought answers in the case, said the Pentagon called off its Speicher search a year ago, adding he would not be surprised if the navy changes the pilot’s status from ‘missing/captured’ to merely ‘missing in action’.

“I’m very disappointed that the Pentagon has abandoned the search,” Mr Nelson said in an interview. “What we need to do is to bring closure for the family that has been through this tragedy by finding the evidence.”

The defence official said that “everybody would like to have proof positive” on Capt Speicher’s fate but “we’re not there yet.”

Defence officials said last July a general who once headed the US team responsible for the search had concluded Capt Speicher was not alive. The officials also said information from an Iraqi defector that Capt Speicher survived and was held captive had been discredited.

Investigators in 2003 found writing that looked like the letters ‘MSS’ on a prison cell wall in Iraq, which some took as Capt Speicher’s initials, but officials said last summer this writing had not been definitively linked to him.

Navhind Times on the Web: World

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President George W. Bush's statement in March 2006 after 3 yrs of war "a future President will have to resolve war in Iraq"


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