12 U.S. Troops Reported Missing in Iraq

CAMP AS SAYLIYAH, Qatar – Twelve U.S. troops were reported missing Sunday after an ambush in southern Iraq, the U.S. Central Command said.

Lt. Gen. John Abizaid said the service members were reported missing as a result of an ambush of an army supply convoy at al-Nasiriya, a major crossing point over the Euphrates River northwest of Basra.

Abizaid called the fighting there the “sharpest engagement of the war thus far.”

Abizaid, speaking at the Qatar headquarters of U.S. Central Command, said “a number” of U.S. troops were wounded in the engagement with Iraqi forces.

Earlier Sunday, the Arab satellite station Al-Jazeera aired footage from Iraqi television of interviews with what the station identified as captured American prisoners, and also showed bodies in uniform in an Iraqi morgue that it said were Americans. The station said they and the prisoners were captured around al-Nasiriya.

Abizaid said the airing of the al-Jazeera footage was a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said the ambush came after allied forces met a unit outside of al-Nasiriya that showed signs it was prepared to surrender. The forces came under fire while preparing to accept what appeared to be surrendering forces.

He said the military believed the 12 missing soldiers were “in the custody of the irregular forces that conducted the ambush, and their status is not known.” Abizaid said the captors were either Republican Guard forces or Iraqi guerrillas.

Brooks said the Iraqis destroyed the six coalition vehicles in the ambush