Thursday, May 17, 2007

Perspective: Journey to find the missing slowed by false trails

Top: Aftermath of Saturday's ambush as seen at the site of the attack today. Below: Byron Fouty, Anthony Schober, Joseph Anzack, and Alex Jimenez are listed as 'whereabouts unknown'. Three are known dead: Daniel Courneya, Christopher Murphy and James Connell. One body found at the site has not yet been identified. The three remaining are believed by the military to be in the hands of a group linked to al-Qaeda.

RUSHDIMULLAH, Iraq, May 17 — The stories have come in by the dozens.

One man swore that he had personally buried two Americans. As soldiers quickly began digging, another man came up and asked why they were unearthing his cousin.

Other Iraqis have said they saw the Americans walking, encircled by their captors, and still more have fingered people who they thought might have something to do with the ambush on Saturday that killed four American soldiers and one Iraqi.

Thousands of soldiers are searching for three missing Americans taken during the attack, and sifting through the tips has become the hub of the manhunt. A few have panned out, while most have led nowhere — deliberately so in some cases, many Americans suspect.

The false alarms highlight the challenge American troops face here in a Sunni stronghold where many residents resent the American presence. And for the soldiers who are searching, the disappointments can be heartbreaking.

Read the rest at the NY Times