Twelve Americans Missing Following Ambush
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 23, 2003 – Twelve American soldiers are unaccounted for following actions around the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, U.S. Central Command officials said today.
Army Lt. Gen. John Abizaid, deputy commander, Combined Forces Command, said irregular Iraqi forces ambushed a U.S. Army supply convoy. Abizaid spoke to the press at the Qatar headquarters of the coalition partner command, which like its CENTCOM American component, is commanded by Army Gen. Tommy Franks.
The six-truck convoy took a wrong turn, Abizaid said. Four Americans were wounded and 12 are missing.
"Subsequently Iraqi regime officials displayed captured Americans on state television," the general said. "This is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention."
Army Brig. Gen. Vince Brooks, CENTCOM deputy operations officer, said U.S. officials believe the 12 to be in the custody of the irregular forces that conducted the ambush. "Their status is not known," he said.
Nasiriyah was the site of the sharpest engagement so far in the war to disarm Saddam Hussein. It is a strategic city on the Euphrates River. Marine Corps units had captured a bridge intact over the river.
Marines from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force moved through the area following the attack and were able to extract other wounded members of the unit.
During the press conference, Abizaid took the al Jazeera satellite network to task for retransmitting the Iraqi images. "You're from al Jazeera television and I'm very disappointed that you would betray … our service members, and I would ask others not to do that," Abizaid said.
American networks have honored that request, officials said, and have not run the tape.
Defense officials issued a press advisory requesting that news outlets not air or publish "recognizable images or audio recordings that identify" prisoners of war or deceased service members until next of kin are notified.
Officials also asked news organizations to hold the names – first and last – of service members and their units until next-of-kin notification.